Friday, July 09, 2010
The group wanted to visit various places of religious importance to the Hindus, but so harried it is that many of them are planning to dump the tour midway and return to Pakistan.
The 65-member group left Sindh in Pakistan on June 18 for India on a month-long pilgrimage. They arrived in Jodhpur the very next day and their trauma began then and there. Rules are such that besides registering with the local police, they have to have a guarantor in each city they visit. Their local guarantor at Jodhpur, Acharya Gopal, washed off his hands of their onward journey, once they reached there.
“Despite valid visa, we had to go to the court to file an affidavit, stating that we are from Pakistan and have come to India on a pilgrimage. We sought residential permit so that we could stay at some places during our month-long tour. It took us as many as eight days to complete the formality,” said Nagji Thakor, a person of Gujarati origin who lives at Virpur village in Sindh province.
“Since we could not check into any hotel, we had to spend our days at courts and offices and nights at railway station,” he added. That the group had many elderly persons and women did not move the officials.
However, they expressed their gratitude to local people. “People are friendly. They have helped us and guided us. It is the set of rules that has balked us. If you have such rules what is the fun in running Samjhauta Express?” said Sardara Prajapati.
He pointed out that many groups have travelled to India in the past, but they did not face such problems.
The group arrived in Ahmedabad on Sunday and ran into the “Bharat bandh” on Monday. After wasting a day, they went to the police commissioner’s office in Shahibaug on Tuesday morning. It took the entire day for them to register themselves.
“The recent change in rules and procedure has sapped our spirit and energy. Registration that should take a few hours is taking days and instead of praying at shrines we are spending time in courts and offices,” Goswami Bhairopriya Maharaj who is from Dingan village in Sindh.
“Many are contemplating going back to Pakistan. I am not sure how many of us will continue with the tour,” he added.
The group’s next stop is Radhanpur in north Gujarat. Their itinerary included visiting 150 small and big religious places across India during the 28-day tour. Some of the important places included Jodhpur, Barmer, Ahmedabad, Radhanpur, Mathura and Hardwar. They entered India in Samjhauta Express via Attari in Punjab.