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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

A first-hand account from Kartarpur

By R C Saldi - Syndicate Features

The first impressions from Kartarpur are touching, indeed moving. Though the expected thousands were missing from the Kartarpur Corridor, well, these are early days as yet with glitches by the dozen, the few who had gone across to the other side beyond the vantage binoculars point, has a story to tell – a story of how they were received, how they went around and what images they were carrying back home.

What a contrast this is with the ugly diplomatic spats and concerns whether the Corridor dream will remain a myth wrapped in India- Pak folklore.

History was made on 9th November when the Corridor of faith was opened linking Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak (Gurdaspur district in India) with Gurudwara Durbar Sahib (Kartarpur in Narowal district of Pakistan) – the two most revered places of worship connected with the apostle of peace, harmony and brotherhood

As part of the agreement signed between India and Pakistan on 24 October 2019, a large group of devotees singing Nanak Bani - hymns of Guru Nanak, went all the way from New Delhi to Kartarpur after visiting various Sikh shrines in Pakistan. Within India, they touched Ludhiana and Amritsar. This 1,200-strong group crossed into Pakistan at the Wagha border, reached Lahore on 31 October, and was at Durbar Sahib Gurudwara four days later, much before the first batch of Indian devotees walked on the Kartarpur Corridor on November the 9th with prayer on their lips.

Manjeet Singh, a young Sikh from Delhi believes that divine pleasure enabled him to join first jatha. He is the friend of my son and needed no introduction to speak to him. He visited Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in 2007. Manjeet is clear that common people on the other side of the border have goodwill and amity for the people across the border in India. A good number of people from Pakistan’s Sindh province are also paying their obeisance at the Gurudwaras to mark the 550th Parkash Purab, according to him..

Like any inquisitive journalist, I wanted to get a feel of the atmospherics and fired a volley of questions. Now what you read are paraphrased relies he gave to my questions. I am keeping the narrative to the first person to help the reader to live the exhilarating experience.

“In our journey through Pakistan from the Wagah border, we were warmly welcomed with rose garlands, and were treated to sumptuous food, snacks including. Our Jatha (group) visited Gurudwara Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib and other shrines before finally making it to Kartarpur for a glimpse of the historic Durbar Sahib Gurudwara. All along the way, we experienced warmth and were treated as long last friends. Everywhere, we were offered good langar (food), good accommodation and whenever needed excellent medical facilities. The Jatha offered a golden palanquin at Gurudwara Durbar Sahib.

“Sikhs are a minority in Pakistan; some of them are into politics; a large percentage is mostly into businesses. Our Jatha included a number of Hindus; they found an urge among the locals for cordial relations between the two countries. Often heard was a strong case for opening of the borders for free travel to each other’s country. It may look like a herculean task to achieve but it is not insurmountable provided the ice broken by the spiritual spirit of Kartarpur Corridor is taken forward by both India and Pakistan. The onus lies more on Pakistan which is leaving no stone unturned to raise the Kashmir issue at every international forum and continues to instigate terrorism against India”.

Difficult to disagree with the optimism laced apprehensions of young Manjeet Singh. At the moment India and Pakistan experiencing their own Berlin Wall moment looks like a distant dream. For the moment, as former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was part of early Indians to walk down to Kartarpur said, the opening of the corridor is no more than a good beginning to normalize relations between the two countries.

Imran –speak however leaves no room for optimism.

Inaugurating the Corridor from Pakistan end, Imran Khan did strike a goodwill note but chose to rake up the Kashmir issue and spoke disparagingly of the Indian Apex Court’s verdict in Babri Masjid case which at core is no more than a land title dispute case. His Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has picked up the same refrain.

Viewed against this backdrop, media reports (in the run up to the corridor inauguration) that at least four terrorist training camps were running in the vicinity of Kartarpur cannot be dismissed as routine speculation. Presence of known Khalistani elements at Kartarpur and the featuring of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and two other slain Sikh separatist leaders in a video released by Pakistan government deserve attention indeed. Also the fact that Khalistanis have become ubiquitous in Pakistan ever since Islamabad became eager to construct the Corridor after remaining passive for long years.

So, for the present, what the Kartarpur Corridor holds is a post-dated question.

- Asian Tribune -

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