The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday asked the Central government to take up the issue of perceived security threat to Sikh devotees visiting Pakistan with the latter government instead of arbitrarily denying permission to a Sikh jatha (caravan of pilgrims) which was scheduled to visit Sri Nankana Sahib on the hundredth anniversary of Saka Nankana Sahib.

The Union home ministry decision was conveyed on Wednesday to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the highest temporal body of Sikhs, which had organised the visit to attend the 100th anniversary of Saka Nankana Sahib.

Terming the denial of permission to the Sikh Jatha one day before it was scheduled to visit Pakistan as extremely unfortunate, former minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema(in photo) said, “This action has sent a wrong signal to the Sikh sangat and has hurt its feelings”.

Stating the Union home ministry’s reasons for denial of permission to the 600 strong Jatha after its members had been issued visas was perplexing Dr Cheema said “We fail to understand what new factors have come to play within days. Moreover even if the central government has any input regarding threat to the security of the devotees visiting Pakistan it should discuss the same with its Pak counterparts instead of taking knee jerk reactions on its own accord”.

Dr Cheema said the excuse of denying permission on account of the threat to the health of the pilgrims due to Covid-19 also did not hold ground considering the fact that permission was granted to a Jatha to visit Pakistan in November last year when the pandemic situation was even more grim. “Right now travel restrictions are being removed instead of being tightened”, he added.

The SAD leader said earlier the Kartarpur Corridor was closed to pilgrims. “Now darshan of Sri Nankana Sahib has also been closed. This has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community which feels it is the responsibility of the union government to plan and ensure smooth and hassle free travel to its religious sites in Pakistan”.

India had suspended travel to Pakistan in March 2020 in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The home ministry letter said while the pandemic continues to persist, it is pertinent to note that Pakistan has so far recorded over half a million cases with over 10,000-plus deaths due to Covid. Considering the capacity of health infrastructure in Pakistan, it is not advisable for a large group of our citizens to visit Pakistan for a week during the pandemic.