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Pak Hindu pilgrims get 15-day visa extension; Cong, BJP credit war on

Belonging to Karachi, the pilgrims came to India through the Attari-Wagah border on February 12, carrying mortal remains of at least 12 persons.

punjab Updated: Feb 16, 2018 21:44 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Hindus from Pakistan,Pakistan,visa extension
Hindu pilgrims from Pakistan celebrating their visa extension in Amritsar’s Durgiana Temple on Friday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT )

The 142-member jatha of Pakistani Hindus pilgrims on Friday got 15-day visa extension from the ministry of external affairs (MEA) for visiting various places of pilgrimage in the country.

The pilgrims, who were initially given five-day visa, held that five days were not enough to visit Haridwar (Uttarakhand) for immersion of ashes of their kin and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.

“In five days, we cannot go beyond Amritsar. One day was spent on meeting formalities on the Attari border. One day was taken by the police and then we needed a day to take rest after having covered a long distance from Karachi to Wagah,” said Champa, an elderly woman, thanking the union government of India for granting the visa extension.

The pilgrims said they had accepted the five-day visas and preferred to start the pilgrimage with the hope that being Hindus they would be granted visas for more days. However, they were seen hopeless on Thursday with just one day left for their visas to expire.

Belonging to Karachi, the pilgrims came to India through the Attari-Wagah border on February 12, carrying mortal remains of at least 12 persons.

Passing on the good news to the pilgrims, who are staying in a Durgiana Temple sarai here, Congress MLA Raj Kumar Verka on Friday morning handed them a copy of the visa extension letter which was issued late Thursday.

“In addition to visa extension of 15 days, the pilgrims passports may kindly be endorsed to facilitate visit to Delhi and Haridwar,” reads the letter written by Soumya, an official from Ministry of External Affairs to authorities concerned via email. A copy of the letter was also marked to the Amritsar police commissioner.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday morning thanked external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Twitter for granting the visa extension. He also lauded Verka stating, “And thank you Raj Kumar Verka ji for helping in this by pursuing the matter vigorously with the Ministry on my request”.

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) district president Salil Kapoor who met the pilgrims on Thursday to redress their grievances claimed that the visa extension is a result of the efforts of BJP state president Vijay Sampla who took the matter with Swaraj.

Sampla, also the Union Minister of state for social justice and empowerment, tweeted before Amarinder thanking Swaraj for granting the visa extension and respecting their religious beliefs.

“I don’t know whether they made efforts for this, but I was in contact with the MEA and the jatha leader Mukesh Rana ever since the BJYM leaders brought the issue to my notice. I ensured direct contact between the jatha leader and the official concerned and visa extension was granted around midnight,” Sampla said speaking to HT.

“If they take credit, let them do so. They are actually recognising the performance of our government at the Centre of which I am also a part. They have accepted that we are actively working for the well-being of the people,” he said.

(The story has been updated)

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 11:58 IST