India on Thursday described as "highly condemnable" Pakistan's decision to transfer the management of the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara from a Sikh body to a separate trust, saying it runs against the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India received representations from the Sikh community expressing grave concern over the decision to transfer the management and maintenance of the gurudwara from the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a non-Sikh body.
In November 2018, the two countries threw open a corridor linking Dera Baba Sahib in Gurdaspur in India with Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, in a historic people-to-people initiative.
"We have seen reports about Pakistan transferring the management and maintenance of the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib away from the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, a body run by the minority Sikh Community, to the administrative control of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a non-Sikh body," the MEA said.
"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," it said.
The MEA said, the Sikh community, in its representations to India, expressed grave concern over the decision by Pakistan "targeting the rights" of the minority Sikh community in that country.
"Such actions only expose the reality of the Pakistani government and its leadership’s tall claims of preserving and protecting the rights and welfare of the religious minority communities," the MEA said.
"Pakistan is called upon to reverse its arbitrary decision to deprive the Sikh minority community its right to manage affairs of the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib," it said.
Kartarpur Sahib 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.
The Kartarpur corridor was thrown open in the midst of heightened tension between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.
The relations between the two countries nosedived after India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated it into two union territories.
The corridor was shut in March in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sukhbir writes to PM Modi
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up with Pakistan the transfer of Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara''s management from a Sikh body to a separate trust and ensure restoration of status quo.
The Pakistan government's decision to establish a project management unit consisting of non-Sikhs has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community worldwide, Badal said in a statement.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president sought Modi''s intervention in the matter.
He urged Modi to take up the issue with his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan and that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) be tasked with the responsibility to ensure status quo is restored at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur at the earliest.
"This is also against the "maryada" (code of conduct) associated with Sikh shrines," Badal said.
He said the Sikh community views this decision as a direct attack on the religious rights of its members in Punjab.
It is the first time that the management of a Sikh shrine has been taken out of the purview of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), he added.
Badal also dismissed the Pakistan government''s reasoning that this decision was needed to rake in financial returns from the "project".
He said the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara and the land adjoining it, which was tilled by Sri Guru Nanak Dev, are revered by millions as a sacred pilgrimage site.