A Sikh Jatha was not given permission to cross over to Pakistan from Attari railway station on Friday to observe the martyrdom of fifth master Guru Arjun Dev Ji.
A total of 130 Sikh devotees had 10 days’ visa to go to Pakistan and a special train was also awaiting them at Wagah. However, Indian Railways officials said they did not have required permissions from the Union government to enter a special train for Sikh devotees to go to Pakistan.
Disappointed devotees raised slogans against the government, the Shiromani Akali Dal Badal and SGPC for cancellation of their visit.
“Why is the Union government not allowing us to go to Pakistan to observe Martyrdom Day? It is our religious right. We have visa to go there. We are not going there illegally,” said Harpal Bullar, head of the Bhai Mardana Seva Society, which had 80 members in Jatha of 130 Sikhs.
There has been no official communication on why devotees were not allowed to go Pakistan.
The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee had last sent Jatha to Pakistan to observe martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev in 2013. Since then, the SGPC hasn’t done so due to its differences with the Pakistan Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee over Nankshahi calendar.
However, some independent Sikh bodies apply for visas to observe martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev, which falls on June 16 every year according to old Nanakshahi calendar.
This year, SGPC observed martyrdom day on June 7 according to the amended Nanakshahi calendar. The Pakistan Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee observes Gurpurb according to the old calendar.
Fifth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjun Dev, had been tortured to death by the Mughals in 1606 AD at the place where Gurdwara Dera Sahib is now constructed in Pakistan. Sikhs observe the anniversary of the martyrdom every year at this gurdwara in Pakistan.
The SGPC had adopted the amended Nanakshahi calendar in 2014, while the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) continues to stick to the unamended Nanakshahi calendar.
Tension over the calendar between both bodies is the reason that SGPC is not getting visa for the desired dates, said sources.
The Pakistan government issues visa according to the recommendation of PSGPC. Besides, the Indian government has been not comfortable with Pakistan giving visas according to the old Nanakshahi calendar.
There is a divide among the Sikh community over acceptance of amended Nanakshahi calendar and many Sikh bodies follow the old Nanakshahi calendar which was in practice before 2014.
“We have gone to Pakistan to observe martyrdom day even after the controversy over Nanakshahi calendar erupted. But now the Union government is poking its nose unnecessarily in Sikh issues. When Pakistan has no problem then why does India have a problem with our going there and observing martyrdom day,” asked Harpal Bhullar.