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Grant on-arrival visas to Sikhs: Akal Takht jathedar to India, Pak

India and Pakistan should grant on-arrival visas to Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit holy shrines on both sides, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh said

Golden temple, Amritsar

Golden temple, Amritsar

Press Trust of India Amritsar
India and Pakistan should grant on-arrival visas to Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit holy shrines on both sides, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh said on Sunday.
Singh was addressing a congregation to mark the centenary of the 'Shaheedi Saka Panja Sahib' at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan.
The event was jointly organised by Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (PSGPC) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of Sikhs and jathedar, its appointed head.
"The governments of both India and Pakistan should make arrangements to grant on-arrival visas to the Sikhs wishing to visit the shrines on both sides, so that the pilgrims don't face any inconvenience and pay obeisance," Singh said.
After the partition of the country, many Sikh shrines, including Gurdwara Panja Sahib towards which the Sikh community has deep reverence and devotion, were left in Pakistan, he said.
Sikhs should have an opportunity to freely visit these shrines, Singh said.
The jathedar said Sikhs want "smooth relations" between India and Pakistan because whenever there is bitterness between the two nations, the movement of Sikh 'jathas' is affected.
Singh also mentioned the issue of non-release of Sikh prisoners during his address.
Saka Panja Sahib took place on October 30, 1922 at Hasan Abdal railway station, close to the sacred shrine of Panja Sahib.
Several Sikhs from Panja Sahib had blocked the railway track to stop a train carrying Sikh prisoners from Amritsar to Attock (now in Pakistan) as they wanted to serve them food.
When the station master refused to stop the train, some of them sat in the middle of the track. The driver brought the train to a screeching halt but 11 Sikhs were injured. Two of them succumbed to injuries later and were hailed as martyrs of 'Saka Panja Sahib'.
The Akal Takht jathedar said the martyrs of Saka Panja Sahib were committed to the Sikh beliefs, who sacrificed their lives for strengthening Sikh institutions.
Meanwhile, SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami paid tributes to the martyrs of 'Saka Panja Sahib' and said that the history of struggle of the Sikh community is priceless, which the 'sangat' will remember for ages.
He said martyrs are the heritage of the community and history is a source of inspiration.
'Saka Panja Sahib' is an important example of Sikh spirit, which will always maintain its influence, he said.
Dhami said the government should show generosity for the open pilgrimage to Sikh shrines left in Pakistan.
He appealed to the present officials of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), Pakistan to pay special attention to the problem faced by the pilgrims at the time of getting visas.
He said recently to attend the centenary congregation, the visas of many important personalities of the SGPC were rejected, which has caused a lot of inconvenience.
Dhami demanded that long-term visas should be arranged for pilgrims and especially the preachers, so that they continue to visit Sikh shrines in Pakistan from time to time.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Oct 30 2022 | 11:53 PM IST

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