A group of 497 Sikh pilgrims left for Pakistan on Wednesday to celebrate Baisakhi at different Sikh shrines in the neighbouring country. The ‘jatha’ is being led by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) member Balwinder Singh Veinpuin.
Besides celebrating the festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, the ‘jatha’ would also be visiting Gurdwara Nankana Sahib (the birth place of first Sikh master Guru Nanak), Gurdwara Dera Sacha Sauda (Farrukhabad), Gurdwara Dera Singh (Lahore), Gurdwara Rauri Sahib Aimanabad (Gujranwala) and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal), all in Punjab province.
18 denied visa
Although the SGPC had sough visa for 515 Sikh pilgrims, 18 were denied it. “In case anybody is denied visa, his religious sentiments are hurt deeply. The procedure of granting visas should be made flexible”, said Sukhdev Singh Bhoora Kohna, personal secretary of SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar.
Kohna and SGPC additional secretary Harbhajan Singh Manawa presented ‘siropas’ to every Sikh pilgrim while flagging off the ‘jatha’ from Teja Singh Samundari Hall. The pilgrims will return on April 21.