Protesting Sikhs stop Indian envoy from entering Hassanabdal temple

HASSANABDAL: Expressing their anger over the release of a controversial film on the life and teachings of the Sikh religion’s founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Nanak Shah Fakir, and the verdict of the Indian supreme court on the Khalistan movement, members of the Sikh community on Saturday barred Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Ajay Bisaria and his wife from entering Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal.
Charged Sikh pilgrims from India who are visiting Gurdwara Panja Sahib also refused to meet Indian diplomats.
While confirming the incident, officials of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) said Mr Bisaria and his wife wanted to prostrate at the gurdwara and meet the Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan. However, upon their arrival at the gurdwara, the Sikh pilgrims launched a protest.
According to the officials, the pilgrims were of the view that Sikhs from all over the world were enraged over the Indian supreme court’s verdict allowing the controversial film’s release. The film was released on April 13 when Sikhs were celebrating their religious festival Baisakhi.
The ETPB officials said fearing a verbal altercation at the gurdwara they requested Mr Bisaria and his wife to cancel the visit.
Also in some other countries, Sikhs have stopped Indian diplomats from entering gurdwaras in protest against the film.
Sardar Bishon Singh, a PSGPC member, said the controversial film had hurt the sentiments of the entire Sikh community.
Sardar Sahib Singh, another member of the PSGPC, said that the Indian diplomat had been stopped from entering the gurdwara to register the Sikh community’s protest against film and to pressurise the Indian government to impose a ban on it. “The film is based on the life and teachings of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev which is not acceptable to the Sikh community,” he added.

FO rejects India’s claim

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office in Islamabad has dismissed a claim by India that its high commissioner in Islamabad was denied access to a Sikh religious place.
“Sikh pilgrims were protesting against maltreatment in India and release of controversial movies,” said Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal.
“Indian HC was informed about the heightened pilgrim sentiments and he agreed to cancel his visit due to this concern,” he said.
The Foreign Office spokesman’s response came hours after Indian officials summoned the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Syed Haider Shah and accused Islamabad of denying access to the Indian high commissioner to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib and not allowing him to meet Sikh pilgrims.
According to the Indian officials, a strong protest has been registered by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad over the incident. “It has been conveyed to Pakistan side that preventing the Indian High Commission officials from discharging its consular responsibilities is in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and the 1974 bilateral protocol on visit to religious shrines,” a statement by the Indian foreign ministry said.
It may be recalled that on April 15 a large number of Sikhs held a protest at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal against the controversial film that they said had hurt their religious sentiments.