Sikhs who follow the “original” ‘Nanakshahi’ calendar of 2003 stand a better chance of getting a visa to Pakistan for religious functions than the followers of the traditional ‘Bikrami’ calendar.
This was evident from the long line of Sikh pilgrims who made their way across the border through the Attari-Wagah joint check post. They were armed with visas issued by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi for the pilgrimage to Sikh’s historic shrines of Nanakana Sahib, Panja Sahib and Dera Sahib in Lahore, where they will be participating in religious functions on the occasion of the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev on June 16.
As many as 300 Sikhs, a majority of whom were from Delhi and Punjab, crossed the Redcliffe Line on foot on Saturday for the pilgrimage. And, those who could not cross over the border after the gates closed at 4pm would do so on Sunday. They will all be returning on June 18.
In the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar, the martyrdom day of the fifth guru falls on June 16, while according to the Bikrami calendar it was observed on May 30.
The high commission issued visas on the recommendations of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), which abides by the 2003 calendar and has refused to accept the Bikrami version that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) follows.
Sarna leads ‘jatha’
The one man instrumental in getting the visas for the pilgrims was former chief of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD-Delhi) president Paramjit Singh Sarna, who is close to the PSGPC.
The DSGMC is currently controlled by the SAD (Badal), which is opposed to the group led by Sarna.
“We abide by the original Nanakshahi calendar of 2003, which was prepared by Canada-based scholar Pal Singh Purewal.
Barring the Badals and their supporters, the Sikhs world over follow the 2003 calendar,” stated Sarna, while talking to the media before his departure to Pakistan.
Replying to a question, he squarely blamed the Badals and the SGPC for denial of ‘darshan’ of Pakistani gurdwaras to a large number of Sikhs of Punjab.
He said in apparent reference to the refusal of visas by the Pakistan High Commission last month to those pilgrims whose names and passports were forwarded on the recommendations of the SGPC.
The high commission did not accept the SGPC plea on observing the martyrdom day on May 30 as the PSGPC had informed it June 16 as the date to the high commission.
‘Kar sewa’ for Sarna
The PSGPC has already announced that the ‘kar sewa’ of Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore will be performed by Sarna. The shrine is believed to be located at the spot where the guru achieved martyrdom.
The PSGPC’s decision did not go down well with the SGPC and the DSGMC. The PSGPC had categorically told the DSGMC to recognise the 2003 calendar if it desired the kar sewa.
“We will be commencing the kar sewa for renovating the main building of the shrine and the langar (community kitchen) on June 16 itself. The plan also includes building a new serai (inn) for the pilgrims,” stated Sarna.