The government denied permission to a Sikh ‘Jatha’ to visit Nankana Sahib in February this year in view of increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan and threat to the safety and security of a large number of Indian citizens, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said on Tuesday. Reddy said in Lok Sabha that under the 1974 ‘Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines’ between India and Pakistan, there are four occasions every year on which visit of Sikh ‘Jathas’ to Pakistan are held — Baisakhi, Martyrdom’s Day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Barsi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji and birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The minister said the proposed jatha to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on February 18 was not covered under the 1974 bilateral protocol. Further, as per information available, no such ‘Jatha’ had gone to Pakistan in the past on such occasion. “Keeping in view the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan, threat to the safety and security of the large number of Indian citizens during the visit and the ongoing suspension of cross-border traffic due to COVID-19 pandemic, permission was not accorded to the said ‘jatha’,” he said replying to a written question.
Reddy said on the occasion of the 551th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, a ‘Jatha’ of Sikh pilgrims visited Nankana Sahib from November 28, 2020 to December 1, 2020 under the 1974 ‘Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines’ between India and Pakistan. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions, the number of pilgrims was restricted, he said.