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Row over calender dates: Pakistan denies visas to SGPC jatha

Calendar dates row: Visas rejected after differences over the date of observing 5th guru’s martyrdom day as per original, modified Nanakshahi calenders.

punjab Updated: Jun 08, 2018 11:45 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
SGPC jatha,Sikh jatha,Pakistan denies visas
Sikh pilgrims leaving for Pakistan in a special train at the Attari railway station near Amritsar earlier this year.(HT File)

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Thursday decided not to send the jatha of 81 Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan for observing the martyrdom day of 5th Sikh Guru Arjan Dev after the Pakistani high commission refused to issue visa as per schedule fixed according to the modified Nanakshahi calendar.

Pakistan, however, has issued visas to Sikh pilgrims being sent by other organisations such as the Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi) and the Bhai Mardana Yadgari Society, Ferozepur.

Visas for the SGPC jatha were rejected after differences over the date of observing the martyrdom day, with committee officials wanting the pilgrims’ visas from June 9 to 18, while Pakistan saying it will grant the same from June 8 to 17.

As per the modified Nanakshahi calendar, the martyrdom day falls on June 17 and SGPC observes the anniversary from June 9 to 18. However, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) follows original Nanakshahi calendar as per which the day falls on June 16.

SGPC spokesperson Daljit Singh Bedi said they had received 118 applications of which 37 were rejected after scrutiny and they had sent 81 visa applications to the Pakistan embassy. .

The SGPC had been following original Nanakshahi calendar since 2003 but the calendar was replaced with the modified one in 2010 under pressure from Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhumma-led Sant Samaj, which was in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) during the SGPC elections that year.

“By denying the visa as per our schedule, the Pakistan embassy has hurt the sentiments of Sikh pilgrims,” SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said.

Shiromani Akali Dali (Delhi) president Paramjit Singh Sarna said the SGPC should take back its decision and send the pilgrims as per the PSGPC schedule. He said he had got assurance from the Indian railway that Pakistan was sending a special train at the Attari railway station on June 8 to ferry members of the Sikh jatha, like the country does on other occasion.

In the last few years, the Pakistan embassy has been denying visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims due to the date differences and instead giving visas as per the dates followed by PSGPC to observe the anniversary.

Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society president Harpal Singh Bhullar said there are 29 pilgrims of his society and around 40 of SAD (Delhi), who will be going to Pakistan on Friday.

Last year, the Sikh pilgrims were left stranded at the Attari railway station the whole day as a special train didn’t arrive.

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 11:45 IST