Protests, condemnation over Pak gurdwara attack
The attack on a gurdwara in Pakistan led to protests and condemnation across India on Saturday, with the demonstrators shouting slogans against the Pakistani government and leaders cutting across party lines demanding strict action against the culprits.
On Friday, a mob in Pakistan surrounded Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the shrine built at the birthplace of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, and threatened to occupy it, if some people detained in connection with the alleged forcible conversion of a Sikh woman were not released. A sizeable number of Pakistani Sikhs were caught in the gurdwara, and the demonstration ended after negotiations between the protesters and representatives of the local administration resulted in the release of the arrested people, reports in the Pakistani media said.
Condemning the “unwarranted and unprovoked” attack on the gurdwara, Congress president Sonia Gandhi called upon the central government to take up the issue with Pakistani authorities to ensure safety of pilgrims and adequate security for the shrine. “The Government of India should also press for immediate registration of case, arrest and action against the culprits,” she said in a statement.
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the attack showed the state of minorities in Pakistan and further cemented the need for the amended citizenship act. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, aims at fast-tracking the grant of Indian citizenship to members of religious minorities from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The act has triggered widespread protests and debates across the country over whether religious identity should be a ground for granting citizenship.
“The violent mob that besieged Nankana Sahib Gurudwara has threatened to change the name of our holy place to Ghulam-e-Mustafa. Do those who are opposing the CAA need more evidence of oppression of minorities in Pakistan,” Puri said on Twitter.
Echoing a similar view, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Meenakshi Lekhi said: “The Nankana incident shows how minorities are being persecuted there. Persecution continues unabated since the creation of Pakistan, resulting in forced migration of such persecuted minorities into India. This not only justifies the necessity of an act like the CAA but also stresses on the need for its immediate implementation.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the incident exposed the “true face” of Pakistan where “persecution of minorities is a reality”. “The true face of Pak stands exposed… I urge PM @narendramodi ji & DrSJaishankar (External Affairs Minister) to ensure Pak stops this barbarity & ensure safety of Pak Sikh community,” she tweeted.
Senior Congress leader and Wayanad MP, Rahul Gandhi, also condemned the attack. “The attack on Nankana Sahab is reprehensible and must be condemned unequivocally. Bigotry is a dangerous, age old poison that knows no borders,” he tweeted.
Pakistan, however, maintained that the incident was not communal in nature and the gurdwara was not desecrated. “Attempts to paint this incident as a communal issue are patently motivated...the gurdwara remains untouched and undamaged. All insinuations to the contrary, particularly the claims of acts of ‘desecration and destruction’ and desecration of the holy place, are not only false but also mischievous,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), the body which manages Sikh shrines in India, said it would send a delegation to Pakistan to take stock of the situation.
“We strongly condemn the attack on Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and appeal to the Pakistan government to take stringent action against the culprits and also ensure safety of Sikhs living there. We will send a four-member delegation to Pakistan to take stock of the situation there,” SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal said.
Hundreds of protesters from BJP, Congress, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and the Shiromani Akali Dal, thronged the streets leading to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. “It has not happened for the first time. They abduct our children and convert them. Pakistan should put an end to such incident,” Congress leader Krishna Tirath said.
In Jammu, Sikh organisations and the Shiv Sena Dogra Front (SSDF) staged separate protests against the mob violence on the gurdwara.