British Sikhs Rap Pak Move On Kartarpur

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“This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large,” ….. reports Asian Lite News

Kartarpur Sahib

The Sikh community across Europe condemned the Pakistan government’s move to hand over the control of Kartarpur Gurdwara to an all-Muslim panel, ignoring the plea of the Sikh community.

“ I am saddened by the decision taken by the government of Pakistan to take over the control of the management of the Sikh Gurdwaras,” said Lord Rami Ranger, the most influential Sikh politician in Europe. “This is not the way to restore confidence and trust within the minorities by taking away their rights to manage their religious places.  I will appeal to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to reconsider the decision and allow the public to manage their religious affairs according to the traditions.”

Lord Rami Ranger CBE is also the Chairman of the British Sikh Association.

Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It is the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, who had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur. The Kartarpur corridor was thrown open in the midst of heightened tension between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The Imran Khan-led government on Wednesday has snatched away the management of any Gurdwara from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

The India government has also condemned the decision.

Lord Rami Ranger

“Highly condemning” the decision, India said it runs against the religious sentiments of the Sikh community and expose the reality of the Pakistani government and its leadership.  “We have seen reports about Pakistan transferring the management and maintenance of the Holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib away from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee, a body run by the minority Sikh Community, to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a non-Sikh body,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Thursday.

 “This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large,” the MEA added.

The MEA said India received representations from the Sikh community expressing grave concern over the decision to transfer the management and maintenance of the gurdwara from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a non-Sikh body.

The MEA said, the Sikh community, in its representations to India, expressed grave concern over the decision by Pakistan “targeting the rights” of the minority Sikh community in that country. “Such actions only expose the reality of the Pakistani government and its leadership’s tall claims of preserving and protecting the rights and welfare of the religious minority communities,” the MEA said.

“Pakistan is called upon to reverse its arbitrary decision to deprive the Sikh minority community its right to manage affairs of the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib,” it said.

In November last year, India and Pakistan threw open a corridor linking Dera Baba Sahib in Gurdaspur in India with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, in a historic people-to-people initiative.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara.

Imran’s Decision

The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) of the government of Pakistan has reportedly taken away the full control of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Punjab’s Narowal District from the PSGPC and gave it to Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a government statutory board.

The ETPB administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after partition. The latest move comes days ahead of the first anniversary of the inauguration of the historic Kartarpur Corridor on November 9.

“Diversity in a country must be accepted, respected and also celebrated as there is a huge strength in the diversity. In every progressive country, there are laws against discrimination of every kind,” added Lord Ranger. “No country can progress whilst systematically discriminating against a section of her population based on religion, race or gender.

“More importantly, it is not in the interest of any governments to get involved in the religious affairs of citizens as religious sentiments can be hurt inadvertently.  As Pakistan is not a secular country, this move has caused even more suspicion and mistrust in the minds of people against the government which is, in fact, doing a great deal for the Sikhs starting from the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.”

Pakistan PM Imran Khan

Earlier, Pakistan government has sent out invitations to Indian Sikhs to attend celebrations marking the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. As per the details of the invitation, sent in advance via the Indian Sikh Sangats, the devotees will be offered a five-day visa to enter Pakistan after a mandatory Covid-19 test.

 “All pilgrims coming to partake in the festivities of Baba Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary will require to observe and abide by all Covid-19 SOPs throughout their stay, even after showing the mandatory negative Covid-19 test,” an official of the Abandoned Waqf Property Board said.

 The country’s Waqf board and the PSGPC have also sent regular invitations and itineraries to various other Sikh societies including the Shiromani Committee of India, inviting them to the festivities. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Indian Sikhs will be allowed to stay in Pakistan only for a limited period, without any extensions.

 A three-day celebration known as Guru Nanak Gurpurab will begin on November 27 at the Nankana Sahib, with celebrations continuing throughout the month.

 “The stay of Indian Sikhs in Pakistan had to be revised in consideration of closed borders and rising coronavirus tally in India,” said Sardar Satwant Singh, head of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.

 “There will be no new restrictions placed on the number of Indian Sikh pilgrims making the journey.”

 As per the bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan, 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims will be allowed entry into Pakistan, specifically for the Gurdwara celebrations. However, the pilgrims will be restricted to Nankana Sahib only, unlike before when they were provided with an option of a 10-day vista to visit multiple gurdwaras in Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Hasan Abdal, Kartarpura, Rohri Sahib and Farooqabad.

 For the first time, the pilgrims will also not have the option to stay or shop in Lahore.

 “Indian pilgrims will be welcomed at the Wagah border on November 27, from where they will be shuttled to Nankana Sahib through a special bus service,” said Sawant Singh.

 “The pilgrims will have access to various gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and also participate in the Nagar Kirtan custom,” he added.

 It has also been reported that certain Sikh societies including Shiromani Committee in India, have called on the Indian government to open the Kartarpur Corridor of India for Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary.