Indian politicians from across the spectrum on Saturday condemned Friday’s mob attack on the Nankana Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan’s Nankana Sahib district. The mob had pelted stones at the gurdwara and hurled abuses and threats.
The Ministry of External Affairs had on Friday issued a statement condemning the incident. On Saturday, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said that the attack is proof of the condition of minorities in Pakistan. “These are wanton acts of vandalism, arson and stone pelting against one of the holiest Sikh shrines,” Puri told ANI. “If any more proof was needed on the state of minorities in Pakistan then this is it.”
“Persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan is real,” he said in a tweet later in the day. He added that “fringe secularists” who are opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act should listen to the slogans that were chanted at the shrine on Friday, such as, “we will take revenge against Sikhs” and “we will kill the Sikhs”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called the attack “reprehensible”. “The attack on Nankana Sahab is reprehensible & must be condemned unequivocally,” Gandhi tweeted. “Bigotry is a dangerous, age old poison that knows no borders. Love + Mutual Respect + Understanding is its only known antidote.”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also condemned the attack, calling it “shameful”. He asked the Pakistani government to curb the vandals and treat the “defenseless pilgrims” with humanity. Another senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, also called the situation “shameful”, The Indian Express reported.
Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala held the Pakistani government directly responsible for the incident. “The attack on the Nankana Sahib gurdwara is a blot upon the principles of humanity and those of religion,” Surjewala said. “The Pakistani government is directly responsible for this attack. We condemn this incident in the strongest terms.”
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal the persecution of minorities in Pakistan is a real problem. She attacked the Congress and the Punjab government for opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act.
She added that the “true face of Pakistan stands exposed”. Badal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to ensure that Pakistan stopped such “barbarity” and protected the Sikh community.
Shiromani Akali Dal Spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa said Sikhs in India will no longer tolerate attacks on their brethren in Pakistan. “We request Pakistan government to take strict action against this brutality,” he added. Sirsa also tweeted a memorandum submitted by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee to Acting Pakistan High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah, urging him to ensure that the Pakistan government take strict action against the guilty.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on Friday urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to immediately intervene to “ensure that the devotees stranded in Gurdwara Nankana Sahib are rescued”.
On Saturday, cricketer Harbhajan Singh also weighed in on the matter. “Don’t know what’s wrong with some people why can’t they live in peace,” he tweeted. “Mohammad Hassan openly threatens to destroy Nankana Sahib Gurdwara and build the mosque in that place..very sad to see this.” Harbhajan Singh also tagged Imran Khan in his tweet.
Pakistan’s reaction so far
Pakistan had late on Friday dismissed news reports that claimed Gurdwara Nankana Sahib near Lahore had been vandalised by a mob. The gurdwara is at the site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, was born. It is considered to be one of the holiest Sikh shrines.
The mob was led by the family of a boy who had allegedly abducted Jagjit Kaur, the daughter of the gurdwara’s pathi last year. A pathi reads the scriptures of the Guru Granth Sahib – Sikhism’s holiest book.
The Pakistan Foreign Office, in a midnight statement, said provincial authorities in Punjab province had informed it that a scuffle had broken out in Nankana Sahib between two Muslim groups at a tea stall. The district administration immediately intervened and arrested the accused, it added. Islamabad reiterated its commitment to upholding law and order, and providing security and protection to people, especially minorities.
In August, Pakistan had formed a high-level committee to negotiate with a 30-member team formed by the Sikh community in connection with Kaur’s alleged abduction. The police identified the suspects and traced them to Lahore, detaining one of them. Three people involved in the incident received anticipatory bail, while two were reported to be absconding. Kaur, then 19 years old, was allegedly kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and made to marry a Muslim man.