Indian Sikh pilgrims stranded in Lahore amid violent protests in Pakistan

Amritsar: Sikh pilgrims wave from a bus before leaving for Pakistan for Baisakhi celebrations, in Amritsar on Monday, April 12th, 2021.(photo:Pawan sharma,/IANS)

A group of Sikh pilgrims who left Amritsar to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal on the occasion of Baisakhi, are stranded in Lahore amid rising violence in Pakistan.

“A group of 818 Indian Sikh Yatrees arrived in Pakistan on April 12 via Wagah border to participate in Baisakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal. The Yatrees would also visit other Gurdwaras including #Kartarpur during their stay in Pakistan,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry tweeted.
India is in touch with authorities in Pakistan regarding safety of over 800 pilgrims due to violent protests in several cities, including Lahore.

India is closely tracking the developments in Pakistan and will do “utmost” to ensure security and safe return of the Sikh Pilgrims who have gone to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Lahore, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.

“Closely tracking developments. In touch with Pakistani authorities and Sikh Jatha. Will do utmost to ensure security and safe return of pilgrims,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.

His comment came after Manjinder Singh Sirsa, President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, tweeted about the pilgrims visiting Lahore amid rising violence in Pakistan.

“We request MEA @DrSJaishankar to take up the matter of Sikh pilgrims stranded in Lahore on Baisakhi amid clashes in Pak This 818-member jatha left from Amritsar to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Panja Sahib. Also urging @IndiainPakistan to extend them immediate help,” Sirsa wrote in a tweet.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry said, “Adequate arrangements for their traveling, lodging, food, security & medical assistance, particularly given Covid situation, have been made by relevant authorities to facilitate yatrees and to ensure their comfortable stay,” the ministry said.

It further said that Pakistan remains committed to facilitating Sikhs from around the world, including from India, for visiting their religious sites.

Last week, Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi had issued over 1,100 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to participate in the annual Baisakhi celebrations from April 12 to 22.

“These visas have been issued as a ‘special gesture’ by the government of Pakistan in view of the importance of Baisakhi for Punjabis and Sikhs marking the start of their new year. Pakistan High Commission extends special felicitations to all those celebrating this auspicious occasion and wishes the visiting pilgrims a fulfilling yatra,” the Pakistani High Commission had said.

Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi, is a traditional harvest festival celebrated by Sikhs, as the day marks the new spring year and also the formation of Khalsa Panth under the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, in 1699.

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