Tribune News Service
Amritsar, November 28. With tight security arrangements in place at Nankana Sahib, thousands of Sikh pilgrims from different countries today took out a nagar kirtan at the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev to mark his birth anniversary after a gap of over five years.
The development came despite the fact that the Taliban had threatened to target Indians in the aftermath of 26/11 perpetrator Ajmal Kasab’s hanging.
Talking to The Tribune over the phone from Pakistan, Bishen Singh, former president, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), said around 15,000 Sikh pilgrims from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Dubai and the US participated in the nagar kirtan which started from Gurdwara Janam Asthan at 1 pm and culminated at Gurdwara Tambu Sahib around 4 pm.
He said it was after a gap of five years that the Sikhs could take out the nagar kirtan to mark the pious occasion. He praised the Pakistan government and the local administration for facilitating the smooth conduct of the programme.
He said the administration took various measures to extend safety to the pilgrims. “The shops in the area were shut while policemen could be seen keeping surveillance on the rooftops. Even the Muslim population came forward to greet the nagar kirtan which took place in a congenial atmosphere,” he said.
Bishen Singh said langars had been organised by various religious groups and the pilgrims did not face any problem. He said there would be “shabad kirtan” at midnight followed by “ardaas” at the Nankana Sahib to mark the occasion. He said they had been unable to celebrate the day on such scale in the last five years due to security concerns. “The atmosphere is such that due to terrorist activities even the timings and the routes for Moharram processions have been curtailed,” he added.
American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) coordinator Dr Pritpal Singh said the religious procession was voluntarily stopped following threats from the Taliban a few years ago, but the Sikhs this time decided to take out the procession as the Pakistani Punjab government had made elaborate security arrangements.
Earlier, the “bhog” ceremony of the “akhand path” was organised at the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara. Later, various Sikh leaders, including Dr Pritpal, Avtar Singh Sangha of the Kar Sewa Society, UK, SGPC Jatha leader Jang Bahadur Singh and PSGPC president Sham Singh, addressed the gathering and spoke on various issues being faced by the community.
Dr Pritpal and other Sikh leaders are likely to meet Pakistani Punjab Chief Minister Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and President Asif Ali Zardari over the next couple of days to deliberate on various Sikh issues with them.
Massive gathering: Around 15,000 pilgrims from countries like India, US, Dubai, Malaysia etc participated
The concern: The Taliban had threatened to target Indians in the aftermath of 26/11 perpetrator Ajmal Kasab’s hanging
Tight security: The Pakistan Punjab government makes elaborate security arrangements for facilitating the smooth conduct of the programme