Saturday, 18 June 2011

Calls for Ranjit Singh birthplace to be turned into a Gurdwara.

The birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the Subzi Mandi in Gujranwala district in Pakistan is now a police station and the room where the Maharaja was born a lockup for criminals.

These revelations have been made by a senior Lok Sabha member Rajeev Shukla, also a senior functionary of the BCCI. He wants that the next secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan should take up the issue, suggesting that the Sikh heritage building be converted into a gurdwara.

“It hurts our sentiments,” says Rajeev Shukla in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recalling that during one of his visits to Pakistan he had requested the then West Punjab (Pakistan) Chief Minister Parvaiz Elahi to convert the building into a gurdwara.

“He had given a categorical assurance to do so. Unfortunately, this has not been done yet,” says Shukla in the letter.

The birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was declared a Sikh heritage building and the Pakistan’s Department of Archaeology asked to preserve and maintain it.

The beautiful spacious building has an open courtyard, dividing it into two parts. It is in the rear portion that Ranjit Singh was born to Bibi Raj Kaur on November 2, 1780. The Maharaja spent most of his childhood in this house, says a website.

It says there is a goldsmith's shop in the foyer of the house. The Department of Archaeology has not been looking after the house at all. The roof has collapsed and the walls have developed cracks.

Shukla says during his visit to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the granthis and sewadars had complained that they were not getting visas for India to pay obeisance at Harmandar Sahib and other Sikh shrines.

“They also alleged that the locals threw stones at the Sikh Gurdwaras on the slightest pretext while the Indian High Commission in Islamabad considered them Pakistanis and was reluctant to issue them visas.”

In his letter to the PM, Shukla suggests that “we should not see them (Pakistani Sikhs) with suspicion. The Indian High Commission should be directed to be lenient in issuance of visas to our Sikh brothers in Pakistan, particularly those from Nankana Sahib.

“After the Headley incident, the clearance of visas from Pakistan has been taken over by the Ministry of Home Affairs where applications remain pending for a long time. Even genuine applicants suffer unnecessarily. I think the power for issuing such visas should be restored to the Ministry of External Affairs, except in cases of persons with doubtful credentials,” adds Shukla.

Prabhjot Singh, Tribune News Service, Chandigarh, June 17

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