Sikh jatha gets Centre’s nod, to leave for Pakistan on Nov 2
Denied permission two times in the past, approximately 1,200 pilgrims expected to visit Sikh shrines in Pakistan.punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2017 17:51 IST
he Centre has given Sikh pilgrims the go-ahead to visit gurdwaras in Pakistan next week to celebrate the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
- Four Sikh jathas (group of pilgrims) go to Pakistan in a year. The biggest one heads for Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, in November to celebrate his birth anniversary. This jatha usually comprises 3,000 pilgrims of different organisations, including the SGPC.
- Another jatha goes on the harvest festival of Baisakhi in April. Two more jathas leave in May-June on the martyrdom anniversary of the first martyr of the Sikh faith and the fifth of the 10 Gurus, Guru Arjan Dev, and the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh empire.
- The SGPC has a quota of 1,500 pilgrims for the jatha that goes for Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary, while for the other jathas, it has a quota of 350 pilgrims. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee (DSGMC) and a couple of other Sikh bodies also have a quota. Nearly 800 pilgrims leave for Pakistan as part of the three other jathas.
Sikh pilgrims visit Pakistan-based Sikh shrines, including Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, on a special visa for which the ministry of external affairs (MEA) recommends a list of names to the Pakistan high commission. However, on two previous occasions – the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in June – the MEA did not send the list of pilgrims amid tension on the border.
Citing security concerns, the MEA told Sikh jathas (groups of pilgrims) that they could visit Pakistan at their own risk on ordinary visa. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) that sends the biggest Sikh jatha to Pakistan on special occasions, chose not to send any pilgrim in June. Other Sikh organisations sent pilgrims on ordinary visa but were disappointed when the authorities did not allow the special train from Pakistan to enter India. On both occasions, Sikh pilgrims returned from Attari station.
But this time, the SGPC is sending 947 Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan in three special trains on November 2 to take part in the Gurpurb celebrations on November 4. “We have been asked to collect passports of pilgrims who applied for visa on Monday,” SGPC secretary Roop Singh said on Saturday.
The Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society is sending 400 pilgrims and the Khalra Mission Committee has applied for visas for 425 pilgrims.
The pilgrims will return on November 11 after visiting Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurdwara Dehra Sahib and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.