Pakistani authorities have stopped hundreds of visiting Sikh pilgrims from organising nagar kirtan, a religious procession, to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Punjab’s Nankana Sahib district. The pilgrims have also been prohibited, citing security concerns, from performing parkash (prayer) at Nankana Sahib’s seven adjacent gurdwaras affiliated to Guru Nanak.
Nagar kirtan carries Sikhs’ sacred book Guru Granth Sahib in a palki (palanquin) through the streets of Nankana Sahib touching seven gurdwaras affiliated to Baba Guru Nanak. The procession starts at Gurdwara Janam Asthan and touches on its way Gurdwara Patti Sahib, Gurdwara Balila Sahib (the place of childhood), Gurdwara Tambu Sahib (tent), Gurdwara Chaouni Sahib (place of stay), Gurdwara Guru Patshahi Sahib and Gurdwara Malje Sahib before culminating at Gurdwara Kiara Sahib (crops). The seven gurdwaras are located in a row on the railway road in Nankana Sahib and have a history of affiliation with Baba Guru Nanak, where he played, prayed or grazed cattle.
There used to be an air conditioned bus to carry Guru Granth Sahib, but the practice was suspended after law and order situation in Pakistan started deteriorating. The Sikh visitors have criticised the restrictions imposed by the Pakistani authorities, saying if Muslims are allowed to take out processions, they too should be given permission. However, Evacuee Trust Property Board, the authority that allows or disallows rituals by minority communities, says its hands are tied owing to the poor law and order situation in the country.
According to former president of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sardar Bishon Singh, despite poor law and order situation, the Shia community was being allowed to take out processions and authorities were providing adequate security cover to them. He said the same security cover should be given to the visiting Sikhs.