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Kartarpur Corridor can open ample opportunities

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on October 26, 2019 with No Comments

With the 550th anniversary of the First Sikh Guru just two weeks away, the zeal among the Nanak Panthi believers that come from various religions-namely Sikhs, Hindus, Sindhis and Muslims are at its best. In order to celebrate the 550th anniversary, devotees from all around the world are now heading towards India and Pakistan as both these neighboring countries in a show of co-operation have been working in an unbelievable manner for close to one year to build a special cross-border corridor that would enable Sikh devotees and other followers of Guru Nanak in India to visit Kartarpur, barely four kilometres from the border.

Kartarpur has a special status in Sikhism, as it was here by the banks of rover Ravi that the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev fondly called Baba Nanak, is believed to have spent the last 18 years of his life. Sikhs consider Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, the shrine built at the spot where Guru Nanak is said to have died, as one of their most sacred sites. It was here that Guru Nanak founded several progressive practices such as “Sangat “ (congregation ) and “Langar” (free food for all) , which have become integral to the Sikh faith.

This year marks the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak and India and Pakistan are vying with each other to woo the Sikhs, an influential community spread across the world, particularly in the US, Canada and the UK.

Construction work has been in full swing on both sides of the border as both governments aim to open the corridor before Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary in November. On the Indian side, besides the 4.2 km multi-lane corridor, a large part of which falls in Pakistan, the government plans to build a massive state of the art terminal equipped with facilities comparable to an international airport. The Pakistani government too in the recent past  increased the amount of land earmarked for the Kartarpur shrine by 14 times. Now the shrine will get 42 acres for its needs as well as 62 acres for cultivation. The land that was cultivated by Guru Nanak has been retained as such and no construction is being carried out on the same.  This gesture by Pakistan has given healthy response to the sentiments of the devotees.

Opening of the corridor has been a much cherished desire of the Sikhs, rather their daily prayers include that they be granted a free access to all the gurudwaras that they have been separated from because of partition of 1947.

During the 1947 Partition, some of the most revered shrines for Sikhs such as Guru Nanak’s birthplace, Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib and Dera Sahib went to Pakistan and for nearly three decades they were out of bounds for Indian Sikhs. In 1974, the two governments signed a bilateral agreement that obligated them to allow their citizens to visit a mutually agreed list of shrines in both countries. However, Kartarpur Sahib was not a part this agreement and Sikhs had to be content with viewing the shrine from the Indian side using binoculars installed at the Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.  This is why this initiative is important.

While the devotees look forward to the visit to the shrine, the politicians that include tThe Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a conservative party that projects itself as the protector of Sikh faith, and its ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party in Indian part of Punjab Congress  are vying to take credit for getting Pakistan to provide visa-free access to Kartarpur, and such an attempt is not being viewed as an act that is not in sync with the occasion of the anniversary. The domestic and international political one-upmanship is inevitable around a project of this scale but it should not even remotely offend sensibilities of the devotees.

The leaders on both side need to understand that the Kartarpur corridor project offers the two neighbours a unique opportunity to seek peace and harmony, and there was no better propagator of peace and harmony than Baba Nanak. Both India and Pakistan can gain a lot on the diplomatic front through the Kartarpur Corridor, goodwill of people across the border, a chance to restart talks and above all cut down on the violence across the corridor.

 

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