While travels across Pakistan in search of the Sikh legacy has been uplifting but also a highly emotional experience.
A view of the Panja Sahib Gurdwara through the grills conveyed a feeling of being in a prison. Freedom wrenched!
In 1849, the machinations of the British India, resulted in the annexation of the Sikh Empire, the last standing independent kingdom. However 98 years later, as the British departed, they encouraged an inhuman divided, forever changing the socio-cultural footprint of these lands! Expelled from their homelands, overnight the Sikh community was turned from prince to pauper!
Today, the community stands deprived of free access to their heritage. The frustration surmounts as having gone through immigration check at the point of entry into the country, at the gates of every gurdwara, one has to again produce the passport and Visa to prove that one is permitted to visit this site!
It gets even more frustrating when the Muslim citizens of Pakistan are told by the government appointed officials at the gates of the gurdwaras, “Sorry, no Muslims permitted inside!” This restriction based on faith is against the fundamentals of Sikhism but one is constrained to influence the custodians!
It is in this context, this view of the Panja Sahib gurdwara through the grills, conveys imprisonment! I was left wondering, who is behind the bars, the gurdwara or the community!
Photographed in Oct 2014, during the research for the book “LOST HERITAGE The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”