Last Friday, a huge mob of at least 400 people stormed the world renowned Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the holiest of holy shrines of the Sikhs, chanting anti-Sikh slogans. They surrounded and pelted stones at the Gurdwara. The mob was led by the family of Mohammad Hassan, the boy who allegedly abducted and forcibly converted and married a Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur, who is the daughter of the Gurdwara’s priest. The violence was against the Sikh community’s opposition to this action by the boy.
In a video, the protesters were seen shouting their opposition to the presence of the Gurdwara there and declaring that they will soon change the name of the place from Nankana Sahib to Ghulaman-e-Mustafa.
The situation was particularly ominous for the large number of Sikh devotees stranded inside the historic Gurdwara. The outright negligent and cavalier response by the Pakistan government has raised serious concerns over security of the Sikh community living in Pakistan.
Nankana Sahib, a district in Pakistan with a namesake Gurudwara, is one of the holiest shrines for the Sikhs as their first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev ji was born there in 1469. The Sikh community the world over celebrated the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev last year. It is ironic that the incident at Nankana Sahib occurred just a day after Sikhs celebrated the birth of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru.
India lost no time in strongly condemning this pre-meditated act of violence and vandalism. India emphasised that these reprehensible actions followed the forcible abduction and conversion of Jagjit Kaur who was kidnapped from her home in Nankana Sahib in August last year.
India strongly denounced ‘’these wanton acts of destruction and desecration of the holy place.’’ New Delhi called upon Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure the safety, security, and welfare of members of the Sikh community. It urged the Pakistan government to take strong action against the miscreants who indulged in desecration of the holy Gurudwara and attacked members of the minority Sikh community. In addition, it reminded Pakistan that it is enjoined to take all measures to protect and preserve the sanctity of the holy Nankana Sahib Gurudwara and its surroundings. Immediately on receiving the news of attack on Nankana Sahib, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Punjab, Capt. Amarinder Singh appealed to Pakistan Prime Miniter Imran Khan to ‘’immediately intervene to ensure that the devotees stranded in the Gurdwara are rescued and the historic Gurdwara is saved from the angry mob surrounding it.’’ Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal condemned the mob attack and said that persecution of minorities in Pakistan is a reality. The attack on the Gurdwara has shown Pakistan’s true face, she added. President of the Shiromani Akali Dal and other political leaders and members of the Sikh community in India and abroad also strongly condemned the incident. Large number of people gathered outside the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to protest against the incident.
Pakistan Prime Minster Imran Khan waited two days before breaking his silence to condemn the incident. He said that it went against his “vision” and the government will show “zero tolerance” against those involved in it. He however could not resist the temptation to launch a back-handed jibe at India by saying that there is a ‘’major difference between the condemnable Nankana incident and the situation of Indian minorities”. This is preposterous and condemnable. This also clearly shows that Pakistani leadership is unable to control a mob trying disrupt peace and amity.
Before Imran Khan’s comment, Pakistan Foreign Office had stated that the reports of the Nankana Sahib incident were false and it was merely a scuffle between two groups on a minor incident at a tea stall.
This incident has revealed Pakistan’s hypocrisy which it had tried to mask by opening the Kartarpur Corridor in November, 2019.
India and the international community will need to keep up the pressure on Pakistan to ensure that minorities in the country remain safe and secure.
Script: Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Former Indian Diplomat & President, Institute of Global Studies