The death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh could spell trouble for the over 600 Pakistani pilgrims due to visit the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer later this month, with several political parties and activist groups opposing it.
The pilgrims are expected to arrive, sometime in the middle of this month, for the 801st Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti beginning next week.
Urs, which literally implies a wedding celebration, is held to commemorate the death anniversary of Sufi saints in South Asia.
Since, under the Chishti order, the death of a saint is seen as a reunion with the almighty, the death anniversary is celebrated as a wedding anniversary.
However, this year’s celebration, to be attended by well over half-a-million devotees from across the world, would likely be held under the shadow of protests against Pakistan’s alleged insensitivity in handling the attack and death of Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore jail.
In a meeting held in Ajmer on Wednesday to review preparations for the Urs, BJP MLA from Ajmer Vasudev Devnani asked the Centre to rethink its decision to grant visas to the Pakistanis in view of “the anti-Pakistan sentiment among locals” which had “heightened after Sarabjit’s death on Wednesday.”
“If some anti-social elements manage to sneak in along with the pilgrims, Ajmer’s reputation of communal harmony will suffer. Therefore, the intelligence agencies should be on guard to prevent such a scenario,” Mr. Devnani told The Hindu.
Rajasthan Home Minister Virendra Beniwal, who chaired the meeting, said he would write to the Centre on the issue, according to sources from Ajmer privy to the meeting.
“Yes, some groups have been protesting over the last few days. As of now, we are monitoring their activities and will take necessary preventive action,” Ajmer SP Gaurav Shrivastava said.
Right-wing groups like the Shiv Sena and the Rashtra Raksha Samiti have been demanding the withdrawal of visas. Another group, the Yuva Jat Mahasabha, plans to show black flags to the pilgrims.
In a related development, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha burned the Pakistani flag, while its parent organisation, the BJP, said the Centre had failed in its duty.
“While India displayed compassion by releasing a Pakistani prisoner, the neighbouring country did not reciprocate this gesture,” BJP leader Kailash Nath Bhatt said here, referring to Pakistani microbiologist Khalil Chishti, who had been serving time in an Ajmer prison before the Supreme Court ordered him to be released last year.
The spiritual head of the Ajmer sharif shrine charged that Sarabjit’s death was plotted by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to destabilise peace in India.
“Indians should resist such attempts by displaying exemplary communal harmony and the government of India should raise the matter before the International Human Rights Commission,” Sayyed Zainul Abideen, Diwan of the shrine said here on Thursday.
“Muslims all over the world have been shamed by Pakistan’s handling of this incident. Islamic countries should condemn it,” he said.