Sikh pilgrims reach Nankana Sahib in Pakistan

Amritsar (IANS): A contingent of over 1,500 Sikh pilgrims from India Wednesday reached the Sikh holy city of Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to mark the birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.

The pilgrims left for Pakistan Tuesday, just two days after a massive suicide bomb attack Sunday left over 60 people dead at Wagah in Pakistan, only 500 metres from the international border gates with India.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials here said the ‘jatha’ (contingent) of Sikh pilgrims reached the birthplace of the first Sikh Guru Wednesday afternoon.

They said the Pakistani authorities have assured that adequate security would be provided to the pilgrims in the wake of the Wagah blast.

“The ‘jatha’ has reached Nankana Sahib and will mark the birth anniversary of the Guru (Thursday). We have been assured about the safety of the pilgrims,” a SGPC spokesman said here.

The group boarded three special trains from Amritsar and Attari, 30 km from here, for Lahore Tuesday.

They left for Nankana Sahib, some 100 km from Lahore, by road Wednesday.

The birth anniversary celebrations will begin Wednesday night with religious prayers and followed by ‘langar’ (community kitchen) Thursday.

Though the Wagah blast did cause some concern among the pilgrims before they left, most of them said they were not worried.

“We have faith in the Guru. We are happy that we got the visas for Pakistan. Though we know about the Wagah blast, that has not deterred us from the trip,” said Palwinder Kaur, one of the pilgrims, before leaving for Pakistan.

However, not all the pilgrims who had applied for visas got them from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

Of the 1,028 who applied through the SGPC, only 759 got visas.

SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh said the Pakistani authorities should not reject so many visas given the religious sentiments of Sikhs for the founder of Sikhism.