A day after Pakistan accused India of preventing 66 Sikh pilgrims from travelling to the country for the annual ‘Jor Mela’ in Lahore, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee(SGPC) on Saturday said it will take up the issue with the Union government.
Eighty Sikh pilgrims had visas to travel to Pakistan, but 66 did not reach Lahore as Pakistan authorities alleged “India stopped them at Attari railway station, citing technical reasons.” As per the reports, the Samjhauta Express train left from Pakistan for Attari on Thursday to bring 80 Sikhs for the 'Jor Mela' but when it reached there its staff was told by Indian authorities that the Sikh pilgrims could not board it as their visa only allow them to go to Pakistan on a special train.
Though the SGPC president, Kirpal Singh Badungar was not available for comment, but his chief secretary Harcharan Singh told The Statesman that the apex Sikh body will write to the Union Minister of External Affairs(MEA), Sushma Swaraj to express their resentment over the denial of permission to travel to Pakistan for the 10-day festival, which is also called 'Shaheedi Jor Mela' and will be held at Panja Sahib and Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.
Terming the move a 'dishonour' of religious sentiments, Singh said as many pilgrims from Pakistan visit India every year, so there was no reason for the Indian authorities to stop Sikh pilgrims from going to Pakistan. "We fail to understand the denial of entry to Sikh pilgrims at Attari border as the visas were issued after following the proper procedure. The technical reasons should have been addressed in advance to avoid inconvenience to pilgrims. We are in process to ascertain the 'technical reasons' cited by the Indian government. We strongly condemn the Indian government's move," he said.
‘Jor Mela’ is observed to mark the death anniversary of fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. The 10-day festival, which is also called Shaheedi Jor Mela, will be held at Panja Sahib and Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore. The 14 pilgrims were taken to Gurdwara Panja Sahib Hasan Abdal.