102 Sikh pilgrims denied visa as visit date differ from event on Gurpurb in Pak

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: May 31, 2016 11:11 IST
Sikh pilgrims aboard a special Pakistani train to Lahore last year. Now not welcome. (HT File Photo)

The Pakistan high commission in India has denied visa to all the 102 Sikh pilgrims who wished to travel to Pakistan from June 8 to 16 to take part in an event to mark the martyrdom day of fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev.

The pilgrims were to visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore and Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal in Pakistan.

Sources in Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) said Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara parbandhak committee (PSGPC) and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) look after the arrangements for the pilgrims and visas too are given on their recommendations.

“They (Pak authorities) want us to send the jatha from June 16 onwards as per their programme to commemorate the martyrdom day. Their programme starts on June 16 as per the original Nanakshahi calendar, but we planned the pilgrimage as per the Akal Takht-approved amended Nanakshahi calendar as per which the Gurpurb falls on June 8,” said DS Bedi, additional secretary of SGPC.

Bedi said SGPC had recommended visas for 102 pilgrims but all of them were turned down by the Pakistan high commission.

Sources say since the change of guard in PSGPC in April, they are strictly adhering to the original Nanakshahi calendar for observing Gurpurbs and other religious events. They Pak Sikh body also want pilgrims from India to come as per their schedule.

On April 1, the ETPB appointed Tara Singh as the acting president of PSGPC after death of incumbent Sham Singh.

Pilgrims from all across the world travel to Pakistan during the Gurpurabs observed there as per the original Nanakshahi calendar. Only pilgrims from India follow a different schedule, and, as sources revealed, it becomes difficult for the Pak agencies to make special arrangements accordingly.

PSGPC general secretary Gopal Singh Chawla told HT that they wanted pilgrims to come as per their schedule. “We don’t want Sikhs to be divided on dates of Gurpurbs. For us all pilgrims are equal and we welcome them and give them full honour,” Chawla said.

Pilgrims visit Pakistan mainly on four occasions—Baisakhi in April, Guru Nanak birth anniversary in November, martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev in June and death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, also in June.

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