Indian officials blame it on a mix-up due to “communication gap”
Around 200 Indian Sikh pilgrims crossed into Pakistan on foot via the Wagah land border on Saturday after a mix-up prevented them from travelling across the frontier by train, officials said.
The Sikhs, during their nine-day stay in Pakistan, will participate in the ‘Jore Mela,' held every year at Gurdwara Dera Shahib in Lahore to mark the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev.
Some 500 Indian pilgrims were unable to travel by rail after Indian authorities refused to receive a train sent by Pakistan Railways, Pakistani officials said. However, Indian officials told PTI that a mix-up had occurred due to a “communication gap.” The pilgrims were subsequently given permission to cross the border on foot, they said.
Fraz Abbas, Deputy Director of the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) that is responsible for maintaining shrines of minority communities, said, “The Indian authorities had not told us about not their allowing the ‘yatris' to board the Pakistani train.”
Kirak Singh, who arrived from Amritsar, said the pilgrims had waited at the Attari and Amritsar stations for several hours on Friday to be allowed to depart for Lahore. “At 5 p.m. we were told to go home as we were to travel to Lahore on Saturday.” He said the pilgrims had protested at the two stations.
The Indian Sikhs urged the governments of India and Pakistan to make “hassle-free arrangements” for pilgrims.
The ETPB also said the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the representative body of Indian Sikhs, had not informed it of some amendments it made in its annual calendar of events in Pakistan.
An ETPB official said: “We follow the Nanak Shahi calendar, which is recognised by the two countries as well as other countries where Sikhs are living. Under this calendar as well as bilateral protocol, we had informed the Indian government of arrangements and the arrival of yatris.
“We also asked the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to issue visas to those intending to participate in Jore Mela.”
The ETPB has made free food, security, transport and lodging arrangements for the pilgrims.
Under an agreement signed by New Delhi and Islamabad in 1955, a total of 1,000 pilgrims can visit Pakistan to attend Jore Mela every year.