New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry said on Tuesday that it refused to allow a batch of 600 Sikh pilgrims to visit Pakistan for the 100th anniversary of the 1920 Nankana Sahib massacre last month.
Because it was not covered under the 1974 Bilateral Protocol between the two countries to visit religious shrines. Earlier on 17 February, the Home Ministry had refused permission for the visit citing security concerns and threats to Indians going to Pakistan.
In February 1920, about 200 people were killed at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, during the movement to gain control of the gurdwaras with British-backed Mahants.
The ministry said, under the protocol, Sikh groups visit Pakistan annually on four occasions – Baisakhi, Martyrdom Day of Guru Arjan Dev ji, the anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ji and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji. It says that no group has visited Pakistan on these occasions in the past.
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy also reiterated the increasing number of Kovid-19 cases in Pakistan. This was also one of the reasons included in the denial of permission for the visit.
“Keeping in mind the increasing number of cases of Kovid-19 in Pakistan, keeping in mind the security and danger there, a large number of Indian citizens and Kovid were allowed to cross the border during the visit,” Reddy said. The above batch was not given.
In response to Congress member Jasbir Singh Gill’s question as to why the last batch was allowed to travel to Pakistan in November when the epidemic was at its peak. Reddy said, “From November 28, 2020 to December 1, 2020, a batch of Sikh pilgrims visited Nankana Sahib on the 551st birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The visit was permitted under the 1974 Bilateral Protocol. However, the number of pilgrims was limited due to the Kovid-19 epidemic.
Sikh religious organizations and politicians have condemned the denial of permission to visit the center. In a video message last month, Giani Harpreet Singh said, “The Indian government is extremely wrong in denying permission to the Sikh group to participate in the main event in Pakistan.”