Sunny Sebastian

Guests go back without tokens of traditional hospitality

  • 485 pilgrims participated despite initial uncertainties about their arrival in the wake of the Mumbai blasts
  • "There is no point pretending that they are our guests"

    JAIPUR: Rajasthan blotted its copybook by not extending some of the traditional courtesies to the visiting Pakistani zaireens (pilgrims) at the annual urs of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty in Ajmer this year.

    The group of 485 returned after the conclusion of the ceremonies last Friday without the customary felicitation from the Bharatiya Janata Party-governed Ajmer Municipal Council.

    This is said to be the first time in recent memory that the zaireens were sent back after the Urs Mubarak without tokens of traditional Rajasthani hospitality such as gifts, turbans and a meal shared with the local dignitaries. Year after year, even when the relations between the countries were much worse, the civic reception used to be held at the Vijaylakshmi Park in the divisional town.

    The pilgrims had participated in the annual urs celebrated from the 1st to the 9th of Rajab (Islamic Lunar calendar) of the Moinuddin Chishty, also known as Garib Nawaz, this year despite initial uncertainties about their arrival in the wake of the Mumbai blasts and the sudden chillness in the ties.

    The Anjuman Syedzadgan, the body of Khadims (servers at the shrine), at the dargah is tight lipped about the missing felicitation but the bosses in the Municipal Council have seemingly no qualms about what they did.

    "How can you call the Pakistani pilgrims guests when they are under observation by the intelligence people from the moment they enter Indian territory," asked Dharmendra Gehlot, chairman of the Ajmer Municipal Council, speaking on phone. "When they are in the doubtful category why felicitate them? There is no point in pretending that they are our guests," he said. Asked whether he had acted on the directives of his party, Mr. Gehlot said it was his individual decision as chairman of the Council not to accord a civic reception.

    "This is playing to the local vote bank. The pilgrims from Pakistan were guests of the State and the Central Government. The civic reception of Pakistani pilgrims is part of the schedule every year," said Sreegopal Baheti, Congress MLA from Pushkar. "This has happened the first time and it is a shame," he added.

    Curiously enough the Rajasthan Government's Youth Affairs Minister Yunus Khan met the members of the Pakistani group led by Sagir Ahmed at the Central Girls' School premises, where they had been put up during their stay in Ajmer.