Op/Ed – Denial of nod to Sikh Jatha for Pak another attack on religious freedom of Sikhs in India



Indian Government’s denying the Sikh jatha permission to go to Pakistan to attend the Nankana Sahib Massacre’s centenary event is another attack on the religious freedom of the Sikhs living in the Hindu-dominated sub-continent of India. This act has once again shown the Sikhs their place here.

While denying the permission, the government cited unreasonable “reasons”. It made two excuses—one is the safety concern of the jatha members in Pakistan, and the second is the COVID-19 outbreak. Both the reasons were considered ridiculous as a jatha smoothly visited Pakistan in November last year to celebrate Parkash Gurpurb (birth anniversary) of Sikhi’s founder Guru Nanak Sahib. Secondly, the pandemic no longer remained a serious threat in South Asia. All the worship places are open for devotees.

Questions were also raised over denying the nod at the eleventh hour when all the pilgrims going to Pakistan had reached the Amritsar Sahib on February 17 evening from where they were to leave for Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Sahib, where the centenary event was held, through Wagah border. They were shocked to hear the news of denying them permission, and they could not stop the tears from falling from their eyes which were eager to have darshan of the holy gurdwaras. The pain caused by this ruthless act of the government was felt by the entire Sikh nation, which faces several discriminations in this country against it.

The Sikh leaders have presumed that the government is playing these tactics against the Sikhs due to their leading role in the farmers’ agitation that has beleaguered the government against three draconian laws. According to them, either the government wanted to press the Sikhs to return to their homes from the protest sites on the borders of Delhi or teach them a lesson by showing their actual place in this country.

The Indian government has hurt the Sikhs when they are already hurt by the prolonged closure of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. The Sikh community got this corridor as a result of the daily prayers they made for 70 years. Making an excuse for the COVID-19 outbreak, the government is keeping it closed for the last year. And nobody knows what is in mind of the BJP-affiliated Indian rulers in respect of this corridor’s future. 

To commemorate the 550th Parkash Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Sahib, the Pakistan government opened a corridor in November last year for Guru Nanak’s followers to provide them visa-free access to the historic gurdwara. The corridor links the Gurdwara, which is four kilometers away from India-Pakistan international border in Pakistan territory, to the historic Sikh town Dera Baba Nanak situated along the border in the territory administered by India.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, India’s home ministry had suspended the pilgrimage through the corridor from March 16 last year. On the other hand, all the worship places, including Kartarpur Sahib, had been closed to the public in Pakistan due to the outbreak.

After more than three months, the Pakistan government offered to reopen the corridor on June 29, 2020, the occasion of Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, conveyed to the Indian side their readiness to reopen the corridor through a tweet on 27 June.

It’s been a year since the Indian government has not lifted the suspension yet, despite requests made by Sikh leaders.

Like the centenary event of the Nankana Sahib massacre, Jot Jot Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Sahib was also observed at Kartarpur Sahib by the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) on a large scale from September 20 to 22 first time after the opening of the corridor. The PSGPC had requested the Indian government to allow the devotees living in India to participate in the ceremonies held to observe the gurpurb, but the request was not entertained.

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p style=”font-weight: 400;”>The Indian government only uses Sikhs and their martial spirit to secure its borders but does not care about their dignity, respect, and fundamental rights, including religious freedom. Lakhs of Sikh soldiers have lost their lives for the integration of this India since 1947. The government sets aside these sacrifices while taking anti-Sikh decisions. Moreover, the Hindu-dominated government should remember it always that Sikhs’ ninth Guru Sri Guru Teg Bahadar Jee made the supreme sacrifice for the religious freedom of Hindus centuries ago when cruel Mughal rulers were persecuting them.



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