Nankana Sahib attack upsets Sikhs

Murder of a Sikh youth further highlights the malice of intolerance and insecurity that minorities in Pakistan face, finds Tehelka Bureau

Days after the Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan’s Punjab province was attacked by a Muslim mob, ‘unknown’ gunmen murdered at Peshawar, a member of the Sikh community, Ravinder Singh, younger brother of Harmeet Singh, Pakistan’s first Sikh journalist in electronic media.

Janam Asthan Gurdwara, Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev has a special significance for the Sikhs and all others. Stone pelting and protests at the Gurudwara by a violent crowd is most reprehensible. The cause of the protest was apparently the arrest of persons accused by the family of a Sikh girl of forcibly converting her in order to marry her. When the issue was raised last year, it had resulted in worldwide condemnation.

It is a well-known fact that several countries and non-government organizations profusely fund Pakistan to protect minorities. The two incidents raise a question mark over protection to minorities in Pakistan. The religious minorities especially Sikhs in Pakistan have already been complaining of insecurity and fear since the attack on the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev. The incident took place after a Muslim mob led by the family of a man who had abducted and forcibly converted a Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur, pelted stones at Nankana Sahib. Large number of Sikh devotees was inside the Gurudwara when the incident took place.

The Nankana Sahib incident and subsequent murder of a Sikh highlight the malice of intolerance and insecurity that minorities in Pakistan face.  According to reports, the killed Sikh youth, Ravinder Singh, a businessman from Malaysia but originally from Shangla in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, was on a short visit to Peshawar for his wedding slated for February.

Politics at play

While all Sikh organizations, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the Government of India and the Punjab Government have condemned the incident; there is politics at play even here. In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs called upon the Government of Pakistan to defend its own minorities instead of summoning other countries. It is high time that the Imran Khan government must ensure safety of minorities and shrines in that country.

Pakistan PM Imran Khan in a desperate attempt at damage control to retain the goodwill generated by the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor drew a distinction between the violence in Nankana Sahib and that in India over CAA. He reportedly said that there was a “significant difference between the condemnatory incident of Nankana Sahib and the ongoing attacks against Muslims and other minorities all over India”.

Capt Amarinder Singh said in a tweet, “This is the time to act on what you preach.” President of Shiromani Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh Badal in a statement urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up the issue with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and ensure safety of the Sikh brethren in the neighboring country. He said it was condemnable that a day after a mob attacked Gurudwara Janam Asthan at Nankana Sahib, a Sikh youth had been murdered in Peshawar.

The Akali Dal has also questioned the silence of Congress leader and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, questioning if Sidhu had “sold his soul to Pakistan Army”. Akali Dal leader and former minister Maheshinder Singh Grewal said, “This is the reason why he has become a mouthpiece of the ISI and has even turned against his own brethren and their suffering in Pakistan.”