India on Thursday criticised the Pakistan government’s move to transfer the management and maintenance of the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib to a non-Sikh body. Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement said the decision only exposed the reality of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government’s “tall claims of preserving and protecting the rights of religious minorities”.
Members of the Sikh community expressed concern over the decision to transfer the management of the Kartarpur Gurdwara from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board. The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is also affiliated to ETPB.
“This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large,” Srivastava said. “We have received representations from the Sikh community expressing grave concern at this decision by Pakistan targeting the rights of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan.”
The foreign ministry asked Pakistan to reverse its “arbitrary decision” and ensure welfare of the minority communities.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board was established in 1960 with its headquarters in Lahore, according to The Indian Express. It administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts, left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after Partition. The ETPB constitutes a self-financing body, Project Management Unit Kartarpur Corridor, which has been entrusted with the management of Kartarpur Gurdwara.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, criticised the decision, ANI reported. “It’s unfortunate that Pakistan cabinet has handed over Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’s management to an ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] organisation ETPB from Pakistan Gurdwara Committee, which is a Sikh organisation,” he said. “A non-Sikh body will control historic Gurudwara.”
Shiromani Akali Dal spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said the party condemns the move. “SAD demands reversal of Pakistan’s decision to take full control of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur from PSGPC and hand it over to a new government body with not even a single Sikh member on it,” he added. “This is a grave attack on fundamental rights of the Sikh minority in Pakistan.”
In a historic people-to-people initiative last year in November, both countries opened a border crossing linking Dera Baba Sahib in Gurdaspur in India with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. Kartarpur Gurdwara is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It is the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, who had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur.