Amritsar: Visa applications of Indian Sikh pilgrims who planned to undertake pilgrimage to the sacred Gurudwaras in Pakistan on the occasion of Basakhi have been turned down by the Pakistan High Commission.
The Sikh pilgrims, who had flocked in to a transit camp in Amritsar are really disappointed and frustrated on knowing that the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has dined visas they had applied through the Shiromani Gurudwaras Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) for religious travel into Pakistan.
It is reported that a list of 400 odd pilgrims was sent by the Shiromani Gurudwaras Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) to the Ministry of External Affairs of India (MEA), which had subsequently sent the list to the Pakistan High Commission.
The disappointing news of visas being rejected was broken to the pilgrims in Amritsar by the SGPC yesterday. SGPC has refunded the cash deposited by pilgrims for the visas and has planned to cancel its jatha.
However, the situation in the transit camp in Amritsar isn’t all merry. They pilgrims are really very upset and feel harassed. The pilgrims believe they have missed an opportunity to pray at the holy Gurudwaras in Pakistan on the auspicious occasion of Basakhi (celebrated as Panjabi New Year).
The devotees feel cheated by the visa denial and believe that the government should abolish the visa system for religious visits across the border.
A pilgrim said, ‘SGPC should have informed us well in advance, we along with our family members are being harassed here. We all had planned to visit Gurudwaras in Pakistan, but we came here to know that our visas have been canceled. It’s so shameful.’
A pilgrim also noted that ‘New Delhi rarely discriminates Pakistani pilgrims who intend to visit the Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s Dargah (mausoleum) in Ajmer or plan to visit other holy places in India.’
It is worth noting that there are about 172 historical and holy Sikh shrines in Pakistan but Sikh pilgrims can visit only a dozen as permitted by Islamabad.