Will Guru Nanak's Kartarpur Bring India-Pak Closer?
The first set of 500 Indian pilgrims offered prayers at Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, Pakistan, on November 12, Tuesday, as the world marked 550th birth anniversary of saint Guru Nanak Dev, the first among the ten Sikh gurus, who sauntered across Asia to deliver the message of peace.
However, this time offering prayers in Kartarpur’s Gurudwara becomes notably significant. Pakistan threw open the gates for the Indian devotees to throng at Kartarpur, using the shortest – Kartarpur corridor without a visa.
Among the 500 pilgrims, 150 noted Parliamentarians, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, also went on the holy pilgrimage.
Earlier, the pilgrims used to journey through Lahore to reach Kartarpur covering around 473 kilometres for the place that can be seen through binoculars from India’s Punjab, as it falls near the Zero-line.
Indian politicians and diplomats also lauded Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan’s effort to foster peace between the two nations.
Speaking to The Logical Indian Ashfaq Khan from Lahore said, “The desire to end the distance between the two countries has always been there. Pakistan has opened its arm, now is the turn of India to emulate the gesture by opening corridors for Golden temple and Ajmer Sharif.”
Inaugurating Guru Nanak Marg, a route which takes pilgrims to Kartarpur, PM Modi thanked his Pakistan counterpart Khan on November 8, Friday, for understanding India’s sentiment on the issue of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
“The move will definitely bring both the nation closer, especially the Punjab region. The corridor will later foster the trade between the two nations as well. However, politicising and involving political stake-holders in the religious matter ultimately gives a blow to the noble cause,” claimed Lakhwinder Singh, member of the trade union in Chandigarh.
The corridor that now appears as a bridge between Indians and Pakistanis, remained under the shadow of politics for two decades.
The Politics Around Kartarpur Corridor
The idea of establishing Kartarpur corridor was proposed by Atal Bihari Bajpayee and Nawaz Sharif in early 1999, the then Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan respectively, under Delhi-Lahore bus diplomacy.
However, as the geopolitical relations between India and Pakistan got hostile over the years, Pakistan closed the doors for Indian pilgrims to use Kartarpur corridor. The corridor remained closed for the past two decades allowing only a few pilgrims to traverse through Lahore to pay their obeisance at the Gurdwara.
The first news of opening the Kartarpur corridor surfaced in 2018 when the state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu went to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricket counterpart Imran Khan. Sidhu was vehemently criticized for attending the ceremony and branded as anti-national for hugging Army General of Pakistan, Qamar Javed Bajwa. In his explanation, Sidhu revealed that Pakistan is thinking of opening Kartarpur and his visit was a goodwill gesture.
Later in 2019, after speculations on opening the corridor was substantiated, Pakistan celebrated the historic decision playing Khalistani songs and putting out poster of prominent Khalistani leaders including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Amrik Singh Khalsa and Major General (Dismissed) Shabeg Singh. All these Khalistan separatist leaders were killed during Operation Blue Star in June 1984.
This sent out a message that the step was taken to appease Khalistani separatists and mobilize them against India.
Relevance Of Kartarpur
Encompassed by the noisy rivulet of Ravi, Kartarpur is a small town established by the Sikh commune. Kartar+pur (god’s own place) is located in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab. It is one of the most venerable places for the Sikh community as their Guru Nanak Dev settled in Kartarpur after sojourning in Gulf countries. Guru Nanak took his last breath in Kartarpur, thus, making it a holy place of worship for Sikhs.
The last rites of the revered Sikh Guru were carried out by both Hindus and Muslims. His shawl was ripped into two halves – one for the Muslim burial and other for Hindu cremation that was performed in Kartarpur’s gurudwara.
Pain Of Partition
Even after 72 years of divorcement, the scars of partition between Indian and Pakistan remain fresh. Punjab has been the most vulnerable.
Ironically, the land on which the Punjabi saint, Guru Nanak, spent most of his life preaching about brotherhood and regional integrity, was torn apart during the partition.
Around 5000 Kartarpur pilgrims from India and thousands of Ajmer Sharif devotees from Pakistan are waiting in anticipation, hoping for a chance to pay obeisance at their respective holy places located across the border.
“The best way to honour saint Guru Nanak is by blurring the borders between the two nations. Let peace and humanity prevail. Let the coexistence be celebrated in his name,” said Sudarshan Singh, former President of Jammu-Kashmir State Gurdwaras Parbandhak Board (SGPB).