LAHORE  -   India on Friday denied entry to a Pakistani special train, which was supposed to bring Sikh pilgrims to Jore Mela at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.

Indian Sikh pilgrims were due to arrive in Pakistan at 10am Friday through a special train to attend the three-day Jore Mela, which marks martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, fifth guru of the Sikh religion.

As many as 146 Sikh pilgrims were present at Attari Shyam Singh Railway Station in Amritsar to leave for Lahore, but the Indian authorities denied entry to the train at the last moment.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) officials and office-bearers of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee were present at Wagah Railway Station to welcome the pilgrims.

Pakistan Railways had made all arrangements to bring the Sikh pilgrims, but it was confirmed at 12:40pm that India was not allowing the pilgrims to travel to Pakistan to perform their religious rituals.

This is the second time in three years that India has stopped Sikhs pilgrims from coming to Pakistan at eleventh hour to perform their religious rituals. A couple of years ago, Pakistan had sent a special train to India to bring 350 Sikh pilgrims but India denied entry to the train.

ETPB Chairman Dr Amir Ahmed said 146 Sikhs pilgrims were given visas by the Pakistan High Commission in India, but the Indian refusal rendered all arrangements useless.

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Tara Singh told media at Wagah Railway Station that the Indian decision was condemnable. “India’s treatment of minorities, especially Sikhs, is condemnable,” he said.

The main ceremony will be held at Gurdwara Dera Sahib near Lahore Fort on June 16. Local Sikhs will participate in the ceremony where Punjab Human Rights Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine would be the chief guest.

According to ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi, “At around 12:40pm, we were told from the Indian side that a special train from Pakistan is not allowed to bring Indian Sikhs.”

According to reports, Sikhs on the Indian side protested against the Indian authorities and demanded that the Indian government allow their travel to Pakistan.

On the other hand, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar Friday announced 250 percent increase in visas for Indian Sikhs and Sikhs living all over the world for 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Sarwar was chairing a meeting of the Religious, Tourism and Heritage Committee that recommended an increase in the number of Sikh pilgrims from 3,000 to 10,000 on the eve of 550th birthday of Baba Guru Nanak. According to a handout, a ‘tent city’ will be established in Nankana Sahib where all departments, including police, have been instructed to make foolproof arrangements.