As the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak approaches, thousands of Sikh pilgrims await the reopening of the Kartarpur Corridor by the Indian government, especially after the easing of Covid-related restrictions.
The corridor was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 9, 2018, allowing visa-free access to pilgrims from India to visit their holy shrine.
The establishment of the corridor reflected Islamabad’s commitment to facilitating the community and it is in line with the government’s efforts to promote religious tourism.
The founder of the Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji is believed to have spent the last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur. The temple is considered to be the most sacred shrine of the Sikh religion.
Since 1947, the Sikh community of India and across the world was desirous of access to the temple it is just about four to five kilometres from the border. The corridor functions under an MoU under which 5,000 pilgrims are allowed Pakistan to enter from the Indian side on a daily basis.
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However, the facility was closed down in March 2020 following the spread of the Covid pandemic. With the improving situation, the Sikh community, as well as the government, have been repeatedly asking New Delhi to restore the facility.
Now, as the birth anniversary of Sikhism founder closes in, the worry of the pilgrims reaches its peak.
“On Kartarpur, our policy has been very clear. We value the significance of this corridor and remain strongly committed to its functioning, and support its early reopening. We hope India would respond positively,” a government spokesperson said.
However, keeping up its gesture to facilitate the pilgrims, Pakistan is likely to allow around 3,000 of them from across the world to participate in the celebrations.
Meanwhile, a local media report quoted Sardar Amar Singh, head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, as saying: “Our government has reopened the corridor before as well but it seems like our Indian counterparts are bent on not letting us reunite with our families across the border.”
Amar Singh is also overseeing the arrangements for the birth anniversary celebrations.
The report also mentioned Sardar Jinderpal Singh, a resident of Amritsar, India, who has been trying for months to come to Pakistan to just get a glimpse of the temple but he has been consistently shunned.
“I contact the Shiromani Committee and the immigration officials of Kartarpur Corridor regularly to inquire about the reopening. Not soon, is all I get in reply,” Jinderpal was quoted as saying.
In a recent briefing on the celebrations, Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said that on November 17, around 3,000 pilgrims would reach Pakistan through the Wagha border. The main function will be held on November 19 at Nankana Sahib.
According to The Tribune, an Indian daily, Deputy CM and Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa have set up meetings with home ministry officials in New Delhi where he intends to take up the “ill-conceived” rationale of keeping it closed when almost all religious places across the world have been thrown open to the public.”
Recently sworn-in Indian Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, in a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asked him to immediately reopen the corridor as there was now a considerable improvement in the Covid situation.
“Government of India opens India for foreigners. Tourist visas from October 15 but #KartarpurCorridor remains closed from Indian side despite being already opened from Pakistan side and repeated calls for reopening by Sikh community from Punjab and India,” a senior Indian journalist Parmjeet Singh said on Twitter.
Another Twitter user Manpreet Singh, wrote on the social networking platform in Hindi that he has 10 days left till the day of Guru Nanak’s entitlement. He appealed the Indian home minister to at least allow the pilgrims to travel to the shrine for three days.