Cause I’m leaving: ‘Missing’ Sikh yatree headed home

Published: April 25, 2018
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Sikh pilgrims arriving to celebrate the Baisakhi festival wait in a queue  at Wagha. PHOTOS: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

Sikh pilgrims arriving to celebrate the Baisakhi festival wait in a queue at Wagha. PHOTOS: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

LAHORE: Amarjeet Singh, a Sikh yatree who had come from Amritsar to celebrate the Baisakhi mela and went missing four days ago, was handed over to Indian authorities on Tuesday at the Wagah Border in Lahore.

Officials of Pakistan Rangers, immigration authorities and other departments were present on the occasion.

Singh, while leaving the border, paid tribute to the people and departments of Pakistan for the courteous treatment, love and respect showed to him. The yatree said he would miss the people of the country and especially his friends for whom he went missing.

Amarjeet, 23, belonged to Amritsar. He had come with a group to attend Baisakhi Mela festivities and rituals at Gurduwara Janam Ashtan Nankana Sahib, the birthplace Guru Nankana, the founder of the Sikh religion.

During his stay at Gurduwara, he went missing under suspicious circumstances. His absence came to the attention of the Sikh pilgrims when they were leaving to India. Law enforcement agencies also started looking for the man, but to no avail.

Later on, he and his friend from Sheikhupura contacted the Evacuee Trust Property Board to reveal that Amrajeet had not been missing and was actually visiting a friend. The visiting Sikh said there was no criminal intent which led to his ‘going missing’.

LEAs took him into custody to investigate his absence. He told authorities that he had befriended Amir Razzaq on facebook and planned a meeting during his visit to Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. After attending the rituals, he left to Sheikhupura to meet Razzaq without realising that his VISA would expire in ten days when he was to return to India with his fellow yatrees.

He was enjoying the hospitality of his friend when the news of him going missing was reported on TV channels. That is when Amrajeet and Razzaq approached ETPB.  The authorities, after completing all legal formalities, transported him to India.

Thousands of Sikhs throughout the world visit Pakistan to perform their religious rites as most of their important places of worship are located in Punjab. Also, other parts of the country hold special significance for Sikhs.

Due to the shared history, culture and religious background, Sikhs had a strong sense of emotional attachment with Nanakana Sahib and other parts of Punjab. Despite the visit of thousands of Sikh Yatrees every year, very few incidents of pilgrims going missing have been reported.

In 2015, five members of a Sikh family had gone missing. The authorities had searched for them for a month in Pakistan. After failing to find the pilgrims, an FIR was registered at the Tibbi City Police station. The family was reported missing when all the other pilgrims reached Wagah for their return to India.

The FIR was registered on the complainant of Azhar Abbas, an official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and caretaker of Gurdwara Dera Sahib. In the FIR, he alleged that the Indian family had gone into hiding after reaching Pakistan to celebrate Mela Besakhi.

On the occasion, 1,717 Sikhs had arrived from India. The ETPB kept their passports in custody in return for providing them food, accommodation and other facilities during their stay. When the Sikh pilgrims were to go back to India, 38-year-old Sunil Singh, his 27-year-old wife Sunita, their nine-year-old daughter Huma Kaur, 10-year-old son Umer Singh and an elderly woman Mahindar Kaur did not reach Wagah.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2018.

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