Pak-bound pilgrims stranded at Attari for want of MEA permission - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pak-bound pilgrims stranded at Attari for want of MEA permission

Pak-bound pilgrims stranded at Attari for want of MEA permission

GS Paul
Tribune News Service
Attari, June 14

Around 130 pilgrims, who were supposed to cross over to Pakistan for observing the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, have been stranded at the Attari railway station since Friday morning. 

Most of the pilgrims are senior citizens who had arrived at the station from different parts of Punjab.

Despite possessing valid visa, the pilgrims were not being allowed to cross over, for want of permission from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Read more: India makes last-ditch attempt for pilgrim visas

A special train from Pakistan that the pilgrims were supposed to board was not allowed to enter Attari. The train, which had arrived at Wagah, will not be allowed to enter the Indian side till official formalities are completed.

The agitated pilgrims complained of a lack of communication between the railways and the MEA. 

The pilgrims also lamented about the poor arrangements at the Attari railway station.

While waiting in the scorching heat, Rajdeep Singh, a pilgrim, said that the Attari station did not justify being called an “international platform”.

“We have been here since 7 am. There is no adequate facility for drinking water or toilets. We understand that the Indian government has issues with Pakistan, but why should the 'sangat' be punished," he said.

Another pilgrim, Paramjit Singh, said the Centre was deliberately trying to insult the Sikh community.

“The formalities related to the official permission should have been completed at least a day ago. Why are we being harassed at the eleventh hour? 

“The railway authorities didn’t allow us to go inside the Attari station as if we were outsiders," he said.  

However, the railway authorities said they were helpless unless they received orders from the MEA.

Authorities said the pilgrims, who were currently stranded outside the station in the heat, could be allowed inside for the customs and immigration process only after an official nod was received. 

“As soon as we receive the approval from the ministry, we will take no time in clearing out the issues at our end," said ML Rai, the station master at the Attari station.

The pilgrimage had been planned by Sikh organisations. It consisted of a visit to various gurdwaras—Dera Sahib in Lahore, Sacha Sauda, Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib.

The pilgrims said Pakistan had issued them a visa on June 4 and their passports were handed over to Pakistan on June 12. The visa is valid from June 12 to June 23.

India lodges protest

India has lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the incident, official sources said.

The Ministry of External Affairs has registered its strong protest at Pakistan government's refusal to grant visa for official jatha comprising 87 pilgrims on the occasion of Shahidi Jor Mela - Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji's Martyrdom Day on June 7, the sources said.

"The Ministry expressed its concern at the disregard shown by the High Commission of Pakistan on the religious sentiments and devotion of the Indian pilgrims especially by Pakistan unilaterally granting restrictive visa (by rail only) to a private group of Indian pilgrims," said a source.

 The MEA called upon Pakistan to immediately grant visa without any restriction, the source said. PTI

Similar pilgrimage cancelled by SGPC due to calendar controversy

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) follows the Nanakshahi calendar released in 2003.

According to the calendar, Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom is to be commemorated on June 16. The SGPC, however, follows the Akal Takht-approved amended version of the Nanakshahi Calendar of 2010 and commemorated the occasion on June 7.

In tune with the calendar it follows, the SGPC had chalked out its Gurpurab pilgrimage between June 5 and 14. For this, it had sent 80 passports for visa formalities to the Pakistan High Commission. The Pakistani authorities, however, denied the request. 

Pakistan grants a maximum 10-day visa, which it had agreed to grant between June 14 and 23. This, however, didn’t suit the SGPC's schedule and it then decided to cancel the pilgrimage altogether. With PTI inputs

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