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Opinion The case for Kartarpur —Trividesh Singh

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. spnadmin

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    The case for Kartarpur —Trividesh Singh

    [​IMG] As a peace-loving individual and follower of Baba Nanak’s philosophy, all I can say is that supporting a cause related to Baba Nanak will only pave the way for peace in the sub-continent. Stopping a religious pilgrimage will not enhance national security on either side

    The Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 proved a great setback to the Indo-Pak relationship, which seemed better than ever before. In the present scenario, a detente between the two nuclear powers does not seem on the anvil just yet.

    It is interesting to note that the ‘Kartarpur religious corridor’, an issue related to the Sikh faith, is acting as a sort of bridge between both the nuclear states.

    For those not familiar with the term, Kartarpur (now in Pakistan) is the place where the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, spent the last 18 years of his life and had both Hindu and Muslim followers. Kartarpur, which falls in district Narowal, is home to the Sikh shrine Darbar Sahib, and this shrine is barely 3 kilometres from the Indian border. Before 1965, it is said that there was a bridge on the Ravi that Sikh pilgrims could cross over and visit Darbar Sahib. During the aggression of 1965, however, this bridge was destroyed; even otherwise the relationship between the two countries became more tense and visa regimes became stricter with the passage of time.

    For a long time — nearly a decade — Sikhs, predominantly settled in Indian Punjab, have been demanding visa-free access to Darbar Sahib. Two individuals who have rallied hard for this cause are Kuldeep Singh Wadala, a well respected leader of Indian Punjab, and BS Goraya, who runs the website New Page 2 and publishes the Punjab Monitor magazine which apprises people about progress made with regard to the Kartarpur Corridor.

    Interestingly, the Pakistani side has been quite upbeat about this demand and the Minister for Religious Affairs and Minorities in the previous Musharraf government, Ijaz-ul Haq, announced that the Pakistani government would have no objection to Sikh pilgrims crossing over to the Pakistani side to pay obeisance without a visa, provided they return the same day. Even the present government has been quite encouraging in its response and has in fact started constructing a road that would make the pilgrimage smoother. This is a significant development, given that it has taken place in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks and when tension between both governments have been on the rise.

    The Indian government has been promising that it will look into the issue but there has not been much progress. The earlier Indian External Affairs Minister and present Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited the Indian side of the border — Dera Baba Nanak — in June 2008, which is also home to a Sikh shrine and assured the Sikh community that the government is looking into various ways of going ahead with the visa-free pilgrimage from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur. In the meanwhile, the Mumbai attacks happened and things slowed down even further.

    In the last few days however, there has been movement on the Indian side and Sports Minister Dr MS Gill has been lobbying with the government in New Delhi to go ahead with the religious corridor.

    Interestingly, a former US diplomat, Ambassador John McDonald, who runs an NGO called the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, has also been lobbying for the cause ever since he visited the site last year in June, and has made the recommendation that this site be declared a peace zone. McDonald was shocked to see the barbed wire that separated Dera Baba Nanak from Kartarpur.

    Both politicians and NGOs are in no mood to relent this time and are mounting pressure on their respective governments. It is important to note that Kuldeep Singh Wadala performed the 100th Ardaas (Sikh supplication) for this cause on Monday, June 22, 2009. Despite political tensions, Wadala shall also be visiting Kartarpur on September 22, 2009 (the day Guru Nanak passed away).

    Already, politicians and peace activists from Pakistan have offered full cooperation to him. On November 7, 2009, Sikhs and Non-Sikhs from different parts of the world shall congregate for the ‘Bridge of Harmony Event’. This event has been initiated by Sikhs based in the US, under the aegis of an organisation called ‘Teri Sikhi’.

    As a peace-loving individual and follower of Baba Nanak’s philosophy, all I can say is that supporting a cause related to Baba Nanak will only pave the way for peace in the sub-continent. Stopping a religious pilgrimage will not enhance national security on either side; there are numerous other means of doing so. Sikhs, Non-Sikhs, Indians, Pakistanis and all peace loving individuals and lovers of humanity have an obligation to support and push for this noble cause.

    The writer is an activist for the Kartarpur Corridor
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