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Denied Visas, Pakistani Devotees to Miss Ajmer Urs for Second Year in a Row

Ajmer: The annual Urs ceremony at Dargah Ajmer Sharif began with the sighting of the moon on Friday. The event is likely to attract around one million devotees from across the globe, with the exception of Pakistan.

In light of the recent tensions, Sufi devotees from Pakistan were not issued visas by the Indian High Commission to visit the dargah for Urs. This has happened for the second consecutive year. According to a news report, the Pakistani pilgrims were scheduled to leave for India on March 7, but the Indian High Commission in Islamabad refused visa applications.

Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony, Sahibzada Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, reportedly said that it is a matter of disappointment for the devotees. He claimed that Pakistan, in contrast, has so far issued 5,600 visas to Sikh pilgrims and 312 visas for Hindu pilgrims this year. As many as 98 Sikh pilgrims have already reached Pakistan to visit their sacred religious places, he said. Responding to the denial of visas to the Sufi devotees, the custodian of the dargah and chairman of the Chishty Foundation, Syed Salman Chishty said, “The only thing that will be achieved by denying visas to Sufi pilgrims visiting Ajmer Sharif would be amplifying the voices of hate and radicalisation by extremists who deny peaceful co-existence and the universal appeal of Islamic spiritual values which Sufism upholds.”

Devotees raise their hands towards the tomb of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti. Dargah Ajmer Sharif holds great significance for followers of 11th century Sufi saint Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, who introduced the Chishtiya Order of the Sufi sect of Islam in the subcontinent. Every year, around 500 Pakistani devotees used to attend the ceremony.

Diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan often cast a shadow on the religious pilgrimage. However, both sides are scheduled to negotiate the modalities of the proposed Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on March 14. The corridor will facilitate visa-free travel for Sikh pilgrims to the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur. Pakistan has committed itself to opening the corridor in November – on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The 807th Urs at the dargah began in the first week of March with a customary flagging ceremony. On the very first day, home minister Rajnath Singh offered a chaadar through his representatives. Salman Chishty said that the week-long gathering will conclude on March 17 with the Badi Kul, or final prayer.

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