Thursday, November 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nod to token jatha to Pak
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 6
The Atal Behari Vajpayee government has decided to allow a token jatha of 51 persons to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on November 19, it is learnt.

The Home Ministry has done the preparatory work in this regard which is awaiting the clearance of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister L.K. Advani.

After studying all aspects of the case of sending a jatha to Nankana Sahib, the Centre has in a careful move sought to have a “token” one so that India does not go unpresented and the susceptibilities of the minority community are not hurt.

A formal communication of the Centre giving the green light for a jatha to visit Nankana Sahib is expected to be conveyed to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Amritsar, soon.

Despite initial reservations about sending a jatha to Nankana Sahib because of Islamabad’s double facetedness in stopping cross-border terrorism, the Vajpayee government is seemingly making an exception in the case of the Sikh community.

Though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Advani responded positively to the request of sending a jatha to Nankana Sahib last week, there were reservations deep down as India had stopped even sporting contacts with the intransigient neighbour.

The perseverance of the Sikh leadership has facilitated in the central leadership relenting even if the time at hand for sending the jatha is rather limited. The jatha is required to reach Nankana Sahib by November 16.

Authoritative sources said the Vajpayee government’s cautious and guarded approach must be understood in its proper context considering the tense Indo-Pak relations with Islamabad unrelenting in waging a proxy war against this country.

Leaders of the minority community — Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, National Commission for Minorities Vice-Chairman Tarlochan Singh, SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann and several others — had called on Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani and pleaded that permission should be granted for a "symbolic or token" jatha to visit Nankana Sahib.

They followed these up by writing letters and meeting several others in the PMO and the External Affairs Ministry to impress upon all concerned that not sending a jatha to take part in the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh Panth, will send wrong signals.

The SGPC, Amritsar, is expected to be entrusted with the task of drawing up the composition of the token jatha for necessary clearances by the Centre to avoid an unsavory situation across the border in Pakistan.

At the same time official sources are acutely aware that Islamabad, on its part, will not be found wanting in trying to whip up anti-India sentiments when the global Sikh diaspora congregates at Nankana Sahib. 

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