Sikh pilgrims leave for Pakistan to celebrate Guru Nanak's birth anniversary
A delegation of Sikh pilgrims has left to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan.
Every year, thousands of Sikhs pay obeisance at the shrine, where the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev was born.
Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee member Dharamval Singh said in Amritsar on Sunday that they hoped tough security measures would be in place for the pilgrims in Pakistan.
"Yesterday three ministers from Pakistan's Punjab state said in a statement that strict security will be provided to all the pilgrims from India and that there was nothing to worry about. The Prime Minister has also written a letter and so has Makkar ji, our chairman. Also, as we are going on a religious pilgrimage, god will protect us," said Singh.
Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh guru, was born on the full moon day in the month of Kartik as per the Hindu calendar. Hence, his birthday is celebrated as Guru Nanak Jayanti.
A devotee, Kripal Singh, said the governments of India and Pakistan should ensure the safety of the pilgrims and also demanded flexibility in visa policies.
"We want that the Visa procedure should be smooth. Especially, the pilgrims should be allowed to go without any hassles. The Visa issue is a major headache. People who come from far-flung areas are told here that their Visa has been cancelled. So it should be sorted out. We read in the newspapers that the Taliban have issued a kidnapping threat to Indian pilgrims. We request both the Indian and Pakistan governments to ensure strict security for us," said Singh.
It is to be a noted that on November 24, a batch of Sikh pilgrims was denied visa by Pakistan authorities.
The two countries have gone to war three times since Pakistan split from India in 1947. The partition tore many families apart. The restrictions have been in place ever since.
In April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited India, the first trip by a Pakistani head of state in seven years. Last year Pakistan promised India most-favoured nation trading status.
But potential flashpoints between the two nations remain.