2,400 Indian Sikhs transported to Hassanabdal by special train

Published April 14, 2024
SIKH pilgrims from India arrive at the Wagah border, on Saturday to participate in the Baisakhi festival.—Murtaza Ali/ White Star
SIKH pilgrims from India arrive at the Wagah border, on Saturday to participate in the Baisakhi festival.—Murtaza Ali/ White Star

LAHORE: About 2,400 Indian Sikhs arrived here on Saturday via Wagah border to attend Baisakhi festival at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassanabdal.

Punjab Minister for Minorities Ramesh Singh Arora, Evacuee Trust Property Board’s (ETPB) additional secretary (shrines) Rana Shahid, Sardar Mampal Singh, Sardar Tara Singh, Stawant Kaur and other officials of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee welcomed the Indian guests.

Bouquets were presented to the visiting pilgrims on behalf of the ETPB chairman.

According to ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi, 2,400 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrived on Saturday to attend the Baisakhi festival starting from Sunday (today).

After crossing the Wagah border, the pilgrims were hosted by the ETPB, which hired a train from Pakistan Railways to take the visitors directly to Hassanabdal.

Mr Hashmi said the Indian Sikhs were transported to Hassanabdal by train for the first time after the upgrade of the Hassanabdal Railway Station.

Talking to reporters at the Wagah border, the visiting Sikh group leader Kulant Singh and Amarjit Singh said they were very happy to come to Pakistan. They said Indian Sikhs were eager to come to Pakistan to visit their holy places. They stressed a hassle-free visa process for the Sikh pilgrims.

Rana Shahid said that on the order of ETPB Chairman Arshad Farid Khan, adequate arrangements had been made to ensure security of the pilgrims, as well as to provide accommodation, transport, and medical facilities for them. He said Panja Sahib had been decorated with new colours, decorations and electric lights. He said the officers and security staff of the ETPB were busy serving the pilgrims.

The main event of the Baisakhi (Vaisakhi) Mela will be held at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib Hassanabdal. The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi had issued 2,975 visas to the Sikh pilgrims to participate in the annual festival here.

According to the ETPB, over 10,000 local and foreign Sikh pilgrims will participate in the main event. Other foreign Sikh pilgrims have arrived from Canada, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Baisakhi marks the first day of the month of Vaisakh in the Punjabi calendar. This year, it will be celebrated in April. It is not only the spring festival in the region but also marks the founding anniversary of ‘Khalsa’. Baisakhi is also the formal founding day of Sikhism as established by Guru Gobind Singh — 10th Guru of the Sikhs.

During their stay in Pakistan, the Indian pilgrims would also visit other gurdwaras in Punjab. They will return to their country on April 22.

The Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan for the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November, Baisakhi in April and Kartarpur Sahib as well as the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in June and July.

They visit Pakistan to observe the death anniversary of Sikh Guru Arjun Dev also in June and Saka Nankana Sahib in February. Visas are issued to the pilgrims from India under the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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