Sukhbir Badal urges PM Modi to take up transfer of Kartarpur shrine management to trust with Pak

CHANDIGARH, Nov 5: SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up with Pakistan the transfer of Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara’s management from a Sikh body to a separate trust and ensure restoration of status quo.

The Pakistan government’s decision to establish a project management unit consisting of non-Sikhs has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community worldwide, Badal said in a statement.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president sought Modi’s intervention in the matter.

He urged Modi to take up the issue with his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan and that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) be tasked with ensuring status quo is restored at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur at the earliest.

“This is also against the ‘maryada’ (code of conduct) associated with Sikh shrines,” Badal said.

He said the Sikh community views this decision as a direct attack on the religious rights of its members in Punjab.

It is the first time that the management of a Sikh shrine has been taken out of the purview of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), he added.

Badal also dismissed the Pakistan government’s reasoning that this decision was needed to rake in financial returns from the “project”.

He said the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara and adjoining land, which was tilled by Sri Guru Nanak Dev, are revered by millions as a sacred pilgrimage site.

“The Pakistan government should not run it like a money-making project. It should also ensure the PSGPC manages the shrine to ensure prescribed ‘rehat maryada’ is absorbed,” he said.

Badal also issued a personal appeal to Imran Khan, asking him to direct Punjab’s religious affairs ministry to scrap the nine-member project management unit and handover the shrine to the PSGPC.

“Due financial and infrastructure aid should be given to the PSGPC to manage and maintain the holy shrine,” he added.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages gurdwaras of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, and the BJP also hit out at Pakistan over the decision.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said the Pakistan government should review its decision, keeping in view the emotions of the Sikh community.

BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said this decision not only hurts the religious sentiments of Punjabis but also raises doubts about Pakistan’s motives as its army has always closely monitored the management of the gurdwara.

“It is highly reprehensible that the new management committee constituted to run the gurdwara has no member from the Sikh community and is instead packed with Muslims,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the MEA described as “highly condemnable” Pakistan’s decision to transfer the management of the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara to the trust, saying it runs against the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.

Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab.

It is the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, who had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur.

The Kartarpur corridor was thrown open last year in the midst of heightened tension between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The two sides had agreed on visa-free travel for Indian pilgrims to the shrine.

The corridor was shut in March this year in view of the coronavirus pandemic. (PTI)