The Times of India – Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee drops plan of sending ‘jatha’ to Pakistan

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar, 22 June 2017. After the Union government’s refusal to guarantee safety of Sikh devotees in Pakistan, the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has cancelled its scheduled ‘jatha’ (group of pilgrims), which was to leave for the neighbouring country to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on June 28.

However, other Sikh bodies are sending their representatives, stating it was the Pakistan government’s duty to provide security cover to the visiting pilgrims.

Talking to TOI on Tuesday, SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar said, “It’s the duty of the Indian government to ensure the safety of Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan. Our government should have taken up the issue with Pakistan through diplomatic channels. It appears as if Sikh lives are not important for the central government.”

Badungar said SGPC had written letters to both the Prime Minister and the Union external affairs minister, but to no avail. He said the Centre had conveyed that the ‘jatha’ could go at its own risk.

Sources informed that following the estranged relations between the two nations, intelligence agencies had suggested that the Centre curtail the visit of Indians to Pakistan for security reasons.

According to a programme chalked out by Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), after the arrival of Indian ‘jathas’ on June 28, the bhog of Akhand Path would be performed on June 29 at Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore. The Sikh devotees will also visit other historical Sikh gurdwaras before returning on July 7.

The president of Bhai Mardana Yadgar Kirtan Darbar Society Harpal Singh Bhullar said the security of Indian devotees had never been an issue in Pakistan.

Stating that providing security to the Indian ‘jatha’ was the responsibility of the Pakistan government, and even during the worst of relations between the two nations, the neighbouring country had been providing a high standard of security to pilgrims from India. “It’s also a matter of Pakistan’s reputation at the international level,” he said.

Agreeing with Harpal, Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha president Swaran Singh Gill said there should not be any doubt on security in Pakistan. “For a ‘jatha’ of 3,000 pilgrims, there are over 10,000 security personnel at every gurdwara, and on the route taken by the visiting groups,” he said.

Both of them opined that the SGPC should send the Sikh ‘jatha’, keeping in view the sentiments of pilgrims.


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