New Delhi: Following reports of stone pelting at the revered Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on Friday evening, India condemned the vandalism and called upon the neighbouring country to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Sikh community there.
A group of angry locals, led by the family of a man who had allegedly abducted the daughter of an official of the gurdwara, pelted stones at the historic shrine, news agency ANI reported.
The External Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying members of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of violence at the holy city of Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev.
"India strongly condemns these wanton acts of destruction and desecration of the holy place," the MEA said in a statement. "We call upon the Government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure safety, security, and welfare of the members of the Sikh community."
"Strong action must be taken against the miscreants who indulged in desecration of the holy gurdwara and attacked members of the minority Sikh community," it said.
The MEA said these reprehensible actions followed the forcible abduction and conversion of a Sikh girl who was kidnapped from her home in the city of Nankana Sahib in August last year.
Punjab CM appeals to Pakistan PM
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took to Twitter to appeal to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure that the devotees stranded at the Nankana Sahib gurdwara are rescued from "the angry mob surrounding it".
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal also condemned the attack, saying it was shocking that the local administration had remained a mute spectator to the violence unleashed by the mob that tried to forcibly enter the gurdwara compound and indulged in inflammatory speeches.
"I urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up the issue with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. This is a despicable act and it is the Pakistan government's primary human, moral and Constitutional duty to ensure the safety of Sikhs in the country," he said.
Badal said in the interest of justice, the Pakistani government should also act against the person who was responsible for the abduction of the Sikh girl and also led the attack on the gurdwara.
"The attack was apparently perpetrated to liquidate the family of the girl whose father is a 'granthi' of the gurdwara," he said.
In the statement, the SAD chief alleged that the instigators of Friday's violence had made speeches demanding that the city named after the first Sikh Guru — Sri Guru Nanak Dev — be renamed Ghulam Ali Mustafa.
Demanding quick and exemplary action against those targeting the Sikh community and disrespecting the religion, Badal said the entire Sikh world has been shaken by the heinous incident and the Pakistan government should take appropriate steps.
Protest outside gurdwara
A group of people, led by the family of the Muslim man named Hassan who married the Sikh teenager, held a day-long sit-in outside the shrine to protest the arrest of their relatives who were held for alleged forced conversion of the girl, said the police.
"The family members of Hassan on Friday held a sit-in outside Gurdwara Janamesthan Nanakana Sahib against the arrest of some of their relatives on the dispute over the Sikh girl," said Evacuee Trust Property Board spokesperson Amir Hashmi.
Replying to a question on reports in the Indian media about the country strongly condemning the vandalism, Hashmi claimed that the protesters had remained peaceful. "They ended the demonstration after police released a detained person," he said.
Meanwhile, a local correspondent of a Pakistani English daily said that the Pakistani Sikhs, who were present at the gurdwara to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, "got panicky" over the demonstration outside the shrine and thought they might be attacked.
"The protesters also blocked the main road leading to the gurdwara, causing disruption of traffic for several hours," he said.
However, a contingent of police reached the site and secured the gurdwara premises.
A police official said they had only summoned a few of the family members of Hassan in connection with the FIR registered against them. The FIR earlier was reported to have been sealed after Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar claimed to have amicably resolved the matter.
(With inputs from agencies)