CHANDIGARH: The widely reported attack on the Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan has seen Punjabis from all walks of life rising as one to condemn the episode, even as they assert unity and sister(brother)hood.

Saying that Guru Nanak belongs to all faiths, people have expressed their anguish. Some scholars here pointed to the possibility of forces inimical to Sikh-Muslim bonhomie trying to flare up the incident for vested interests. Reports say the attack had followed a personal feud between a Muslim and a Sikh family.

The Muslim community across Punjab has come out unequivocally to denounce the act at Nankana Sahib. Shahi Imam at Ludhiana Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Sani Ludhianvi while condemning the act has said that the action puts ‘humanity to shame’. He said, “No religion in the world allows protest outside the place of worship of any community. In the reported case of Nankana Sahib, whatever grudges the people had against anyone should have been taken to the office of the District Police Officer. No one can be let off for attacking the Maryada of a religious shrine.”

He has called upon the Pakistani government to ensure the safety and security of Sikhs in the country while asking for registration of criminal cases against those responsible for the act.

“We are not saying this because we live in India. But because Guru Nanak is respectable among every religion,” he said.

Various groups and organizations in Malerkotla that happens to be the only Muslim dominated town in Punjab to have survived the bloody mayhem during partition of the subcontinent in 1947 have expressed shock and anger at what happened in Nankana Sahib.

Waseem Sheikh who is a youth leader in Malerkotla told this reporter that a protest is being planned for Monday at Sirhandi Gate to express anger against the episode. “Both Sikhs and Muslims have a common past and the concepts of both faiths are similar. The concept of ‘Ek Onkar’ and ‘La illaha illallah’ propagating that God is one is common. There is no place for anyone in any faith for attacking the place of worship of others.”

He further narrated the historical tale of Malerkotla’s Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan having opposed the killing of the Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh by Wazir Khan who was the ruler of Sirhind. Although his efforts proved to be futile, Malerkotla earned the respect of Sikhs others far and wide. Legend has it that when Guru Gobind Singh was told about the fate of his younger sons he uprooted a shrub with his arrow declaring that this would be the end to the tyranny of Wazir Khan. Later when Sikh forces led by Banda Singh Bahadur defeated the army of Wazir Khan, the Sikh forces were asked not to destroy any mosque. Guru Gobind Singh asked his followers to always help and support the people of Malerkotla and never let adversity touch them.

Adding to this Dr Naseer Akhtar who is a functionary of the Sikh Muslim Sanjha Foundation said, “Every Constitution has a set of laws and citizens are judged on the basis of their adhering to these laws framed for the good of society. The same is the case with Islam, a religion of equality, and its tenets. Those who follow the tenets of Islam are good Muslims while others are not. The Koran says that there is no place for those propagating hate against anyone. It is a crime bigger than murder. A uniform or body does not make one Muslim like anyone wearing a black coat and trouser is not a lawyer or a white overall is not a doctor. You have to qualify to get these identities. Acts like what happened at Nankana Sahib cannot be forgiven and those responsible deserve the strictest of punishment.”

Meanwhile, experts on Sikh history and veterans in Punjab politics point to the need to read between the lines. Former deputy speaker of Punjab assembly Bir Devinder Singh said, “What has happened is bad. It can be that the agencies are behind the provocation. If one talks of the motive, there are forces inimical to the bonhomie between Sikhs and Pakistanis that has gained momentum during the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak and the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. One has to read between the lines and not on the face of it.”

The Kartarpur Sahib corridor continues to be in the news at the regional level with reports of people from both sides of the border warming up to the each other irrespective of official channels creating petty impediments off and on. While many see it with the myopic view of Sikhs getting access to the holy shrine across the border and getting a long pending demand addressed by the authorities, others see it as a major step towards the coming closer of the two Punjabs in India and Pakistan that have a common ethos and cultural roots.

Meanwhile, Dal Khalsa leader Kanwar Pal Singh said, “What has happened is very unfortunate. Differences between humans should not be turned into differences between religions and faiths. It is very unfortunate and difficult to say who provoked the attack but the assault and the language used amounts to sacrilege. Whatever issues were there, those responsible for the attack should have taken them to the local authorities.”

The common refrain among Punjabis is that the forces of hate on both sides of Radcliffe Line are responsible for the attempts to create a wedge between communities. These are the people taking the region back to the bloody days of partition.