India, on Friday, lodged a protest against Pakistan's decision to refuse visas to 87 Sikh pilgrims for Shahid Jor Mela

New Delhi: India lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over Islamabad's refusal to grant visas to 87 pilgrims for Shahid Jor Mela or Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji's martyrdom day. Citing sources, news agencies reported that the Ministry of External Affairs has asked Pakistan to grant visas to the pilgrims without any restrictions. 

"MEA has registered its strong protest at Pakistan government's refusal to grant a visa for official jatha comprising 87 pilgrims on the occasion of Shahidi Jor Mela - Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji's Martyrdom Day on June 7 under the Bilateral Protocol on Visit to Religious Shrines, 1974. MEA had earlier requested visas for the pilgrims," sources told ANI on Friday.

The martyrdom day is observed by visiting Gurudwara Dera Sahib in Lahore. The fifth guru in Sikhism breathed his last in 1606. The gurudwara stands at the place where Guru Arjan Dev Ji passed away.

"The Ministry expressed its concern at the disregard shown by the High Commission of Pakistan on the religious sentiments and devotion of the Indian pilgrims especially by Pakistan unilaterally granting restrictive visa (by rail only) to a private group of Indian pilgrims. MEA called upon Pakistan to immediately grant visa without any restriction," the MEA said.

India has requested visas on the ground of the bilateral Protocol on Visit to Religious Shrines, 1974. In a separate report, news agency PTI quoted Amir Hashmi, spokesperson for Evacuee Trust Property Board as saying, "Pakistan had issued visas to some 200 Indian Sikhs to attend the Jore Mela (death anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev jee) and they were due to arrive here by a Pakistani train on Friday. But the Indian government refused to allow the Pakistani train to enter its territory to bring the Sikh Yatrees here."