Even as Pakistan has stated that it won’t shut the Kartarpur corridor, it is facing allegations of disregarding a Sikh delegation from India.
The corridor connects two Sikh shrines in the border states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan portrays its decision of opening up access to its shrine as a goodwill gesture towards the Sikhs.
Former office bearer of a Sikh organisation has accused Pakistan of snubbing their religious heads during their recent visit to the neighbouring country for the 550th birth anniversary celebration of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
About 500 Indian Sikhs had arrived in Pakistan on July 30
en route to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak. In a video doing the rounds on social media, former president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Manjit Singh GK lamented the treatment meted out to the congregation.
The congregation was led by the President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee Gobind Singh Longowal, DSGMC President Manjinder Singh Sirsa and Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh. While the two organisations manage the Sikhs’ place of worship in northern India's Sikh-populated states, the Jathedar of Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of the religion. Akal Takht (meaning throne of the timeless one) is one of the five seats of power of the Sikhs and is located in the religion’s most significant shrine, Golden Temple in Amritsar. The head priest and priest of the Golden Temple too were a part of the group.
101Reporters that upon reaching Pakistan, the delegation had to wait until the eleventh hour for government permission to take out the Nagar Kirtan or celebratory procession, the very purpose of their visit. Sources said the authorities initially denied permission and granted it at the very last minute and that too only after multiple meetings. Further, Manjit alleged the delegation was made to park their vehicles far from the venue and walk.
This correspondent learnt that nobody from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) or Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB -- the Pakistani authority in-charge of religious trusts of Hindus and Sikhs) was present when the Indian congregation began
Akhand Path, the non-stop recitation of the Sikhs’ holy text. Likewise, nobody from the ETPB welcomed them on arrival.
Requesting anonymity, a member of the PSGPC told this correspondent that the committee did not receive instructions to give prominence to the Indian congregation. He added he was not sure if the Pakistani authorities did so deliberately.
“Such a treatment was unjust,” Manjit said. “The [position of] Akal Takth Jathedar is equal in status to that of the Pope.”
Jai Prakash, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, told this correspondent he can’t fathom why nobody from the Ministry of Minority Affairs or the ETPB showed up to welcome the Indian congregation on this special occasion. He said that according to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, the pilgrims were supposed to get a warm welcome.
PSGPC President Sardar Tara Singh refuted allegations of any lapse and said the Indian congregation was well received in Pakistan. He told this correspondent the PSGPC made elaborate arrangements to ensure they feel comfortable.
A member of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said he wasn’t sure if the Indian delegation was indeed denied the due protocol. He said if it has happened, it’s a huge blunder.
In a recent media statement, Pakistan’s foreign office had highlighted its initiatives to make the upcoming birth anniversary of Guru Nanak a memorable and historic event. It cited opening up the Kartarpur corridor as a case in point. While Pakistan has suspended bilateral ties with India over the Kashmir issue, it announced Thursday it won't stop work on the corridor.
With inputs from Kusum Arora in Jalandhar, India. The authors are freelance reporters and members of 101Reporters, a network of grassroots journalists.