The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has cancelled the visit of a 1,400-strong Sikh jatha to Pakistan due to the denial of visas to a majority of the applicants.
The Pakistan High Commission has denied visas to more than 1,350 pilgrims, apparently due to political uncertainty and law and order problem in the neighbouring country. The jatha was scheduled to leave for Lahore on Wednesday on a 10-day visit to Pakistan to pay obeisance at historic gurdwaras to mark Baisakhi.
Stating this here, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar expressed resentment over the visa denial, saying that it was a matter of grave concern for the Sikh community.
Makkar, who presided over the SGPC executive meeting here, said the committee had sent a list of 1,400 applicants to the union government sometime ago, but it was forwarded to the Pakistan embassy only on April 4.
He pointed out that the SGPC had 60% quota for Pakistan visas during Baisakhi and other Sikh religious occasions when the community from across the world paid obeisance at Sikh shrines in Pakistan.
In 1999, the SGPC had cancelled the jatha's visit in protest against the formation of a separate Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee under the aegis of the Waqf Board there. Bibi Jagir Kaur was then the SGPC president.
DSGMC follows suit
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), also governed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), has decided to cancel its jatha's visit, even though the Pakistan authorities granted visas to 157 of the 171 applicants.
DSGMC president Manjit Singh GK told HT on the phone from Delhi that the committee had decided to cancel its tour in protest against the overall large-scale denial of visas. He said the few people who had got visas could visit Pakistan at their own risk.