A 1400-strong 'jatha' (religious group) of the Sikh pilgrims under the banner of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will not be able to leave for Pakistan on Wednesday due to denial of the visas.
The Pakistan High Commission has denied visas to over 1350 applicants who were enlisted by the SGPC for the 'jatha' that was scheduled to leave for Lahore on Wednesday on a 10-day visit to Pakistan to pay obeisance at the historic Gurdwaras.
Informing this here, SGPC president Avtar Singh on Tuesday expressed his resentment over the denial of the visas, saying it was a matter of grave concern for the Sikh community.
Avtar Singh, who presided over the SGPC executive meeting here, said the Committee had sent the list of 1400 pilgrim applicants to the union government long time back but the list was forwarded to the Pakistan embassy only on April 4.
Also blaming the Centre for "dilly-dallying" the visa process, he pointed out that the SGPC had 60% quota for the Pak visas during the Baisakhi and other Sikh religious occasions when the community from across the world pay obeisance at the historic Sikh shrines in Pakistan.
"It is unfortunate that the Pak authorities had denied the visas," he added.
It was earlier in 1999 that the SGPC had cancelled the visit of its 'jatha' on the religious occasion in protest against the formation of a separate Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee under the aegis of the Waqf Board there. Bibi Jagir Kauir was then the SGPC president.
DSGMC too cancels official 'jatha'
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), also governed by the Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal, too has decided to cancel its 'jatha' visit for which the Pak authorities gave visas to 157 of the total 171 applicants.
DSGMC president Manjit Singh GK told HT on phine from Delhi that the Committee had decided to cancel its programme in protest against the denial of visas on a large scale by the Pak authorities.
He however, said that the few who got the visas could move on to cross the borders "at their own risk" as the DSGMC had also cancelled its 'jatha' programme.