India on Tuesday summoned the senior-most Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi to convey its concern at what it said was the desecration of Durbar Sahib gurdwara, built at the site where Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life, following a fashion shoot at the shrine.
A Lahore-based fashion brand had recently posted images of a photoshoot done by a model at Durbar Sahib gurdwara on its social media accounts. The model featured in the photos did not have her head covered – as is required of all visitors to Sikh shrines – and this resulted in widespread criticism in India and Pakistan.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Pakistan’s charge d’affaires Aftab Hasan Khan was summoned to “convey our deep concern at the incident of desecration of the sanctity of Gurudwara Shri Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, by a Pakistani model and a clothing brand”.
Khan was informed this “reprehensible incident has deeply hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community in India and worldwide”, he said.
“Such continued incidents of desecration and disrespect of places of religious worship of the minority communities in Pakistan highlight the lack of respect for the faith of these communities,” he added.
The Indian side also told Khan that it expects “Pakistani authorities to sincerely investigate this matter and take action against those involved”.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee had written to external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Monday, demanding that he take up the matter with the Pakistan government. With elections coming up in Punjab, it had become a hot button issue in political circles.
However, authorities in Pakistan had already taken up the issue before India’s formal protest. Kartarpur is located in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and Usman Buzdar, the provincial chief minister, took “strict notice” of the matter and sought a report on the incident from the chief secretary.
“A thorough inquiry will be done on this incident. CM Punjab reiterated that all religions are respected in Pakistan,” said a tweet from the handle of the Punjab provincial government. It added in another tweet that “strict action will be taken against all culprits”.
Pakistan’s Punjab Police said in a tweet official were “investigating all aspects related to this incident and strict legal action will be taken against responsible”. The management of the fashion brand and model were also being investigated, it added.
Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry asked the fashion designer and model involved in the incident to apologise, saying the gurdwara is a “religious symbol and not a film set”.
The fashion brand too distanced itself from the photoshoot, which it said was done by a third party using its outfits. “However, we accept our mistake that we should not have posted this content, and we apologise to every single person who was offended by this. All the holy places are very sacred to us. The pictures and posts have been removed from all our media channels,” the brand said in a statement.
The gurdwara at Kartarpur is located in the area where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is believed to have spent his final years. In 2019, India and Pakistan opened a special corridor to allow Indian pilgrims to visit the shrine without visas.
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