Islamabad/New Delhi, January 3: An angry mob on Friday surrounded Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the shrine built at the birthplace of Sikhism’s founder in Pakistan, and threatened to occupy it if some people detained in connection with the alleged forcible conversion of a Sikh woman were not released.
Hundreds of people joined the sit-in protest that lasted till the evening and shouted slogans. A sizeable number of Pakistani Sikhs were caught within the gurdwara, and the demonstration ended after negotiations between the protestors and representatives of the local administration resulted in the release of the arrested people, reports in the Pakistani media said.
The Indian government expressed concern at the “vandalism carried out at the revered Nankana Sahib Gurdwara” and members of Pakistan’s Sikh minority being “subjected to acts of violence in the holy city of Nankana Sahib”. It called on the Pakistani authorities to ensure the safety and security of Sikhs.
“India strongly condemns these wanton acts of destruction and desecration of the holy place. We call upon the government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure the safety, security, and welfare of the members of the Sikh community,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“Strong action must be taken against the miscreants who indulged in desecration of the holy gurdwara and attacked members of the minority Sikh community. In addition, government of Pakistan is enjoined to take all measures to protect and preserve the sanctity of the holy Nankana Sahib Gurdwara and its surroundings,” it said.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh asked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene in the matter. “Appeal to @ImranKhanPTI to immediately intervene to ensure that the devotees stranded in Gurdwara Nankana Sahib are rescued and the historic Gurdwara is saved from the angry mob surrounding it,” he tweeted.
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned the incident.
Some reports said the protestors pelted stones at the gurdwara but this was denied by people in Lahore familiar with developments. The protest resulted in tension across Nankana Sahib, especially among Sikh residents. The people also said no Indian pilgrims were at the shrine at the time of the protest.
The protestors were led by the family of a Muslim man from Nankana Sahib who was accused of forcibly converting and marrying a Sikh woman named Jagjit Kaur last August. The man and several of his relatives were detained on Friday. Kaur, currently in a state-run shelter for women, has submitted a written statement in court saying she converted of her own will.
Amid the protest, Prime Minister Khan faced criticism for tweeting a seven-year-old video of violence from Bangladesh and claiming it was a case of police brutality in Uttar Pradesh. He later deleted the tweet. (Agencies)