28-member jatha visits Kartarpur on Day 1 of reopening of corridor
Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi along with Congress MLAs to pay obeisance at the shrine across the border today
A 28-member jatha (group) on Wednesday visited Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, in Pakistan on the first of the reopening of the visa-free corridor for pilgrims after nearly 20 months.
The jatha comprising the panj pyare (five beloved of Guru) crossed over to Pakistan at 11am. Officials of the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI) and the Border Security Force (BSF) honoured the members of the jatha with siropas (robes of honour) at the Dera Baba Nanak integrated check-post (ICP).
The first batch of pilgrims, including Neelam Grewal, the vice-chancellor of Guru Kashi University at Talwandi Sabo, was accorded a warm welcome upon crossing the zero line by Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) president Ameer Singh and chief executive officer of Pakistan project management unit Muhammad Latif.
Grewal said she received a phone call on Tuesday and filled the form to visit the shrine.
Ameer Singh said it was good that the corridor had finally been opened. “Our prayers have been heard,” he said.
“A list of 50 persons comprising some dignitaries and panj pyare was approved by the Centre for Wednesday’s visit but 28 members visited the shrine,” said a senior customs official at the Dera Baba Nanak ICP.
The online registration process for visiting Kartarpur has also been started, the official added. “Those who are getting themselves registered through the online portal will be able to cross over to Pakistan after 10 days,” he said.
But the online portal shows available slots from November 19 if one applies now.
Sources said the first jatha pilgrims also included some of those who had applied slightly before the corridor was closed due to the pandemic outbreak.
Lovepreet Singh of Gurdaspur said, “I had applied for visiting Kartarpur Sahib before the lockdown restrictions were imposed. My file was processed and I had got clearance. On Tuesday, I got a call informing me that I can visit the holy shrine. I am quite happy as my wish has been fulfilled.”
Jaspal Singh from New Delhi said, “We were given a warm welcome after crossing the zero line. Around 500 people from Pakistan had already been there for paying obeisance. The devotees from Pakistan said they were eagerly awaiting the reopening of the corridor for the last two years.”
The reopening of the corridor coincides with the 552nd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Union home minister Amit Shah on Tuesday announced the Centre’s decision to reopen the visa-free 4.7-km corridor that connects Dera Baba Nanak Sahib gurdwara on the Indian side with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of the first Sikh Guru.
On Thursday, another group of pilgrims, including Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi along with other Congress MLAs will visit Kartarpur. It was not confirmed whether Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu will also be part of the group. “The list is yet to be finalised, but we think around 100 people will go on Thursday,” said a customs official.
A delegation of BJP leaders will also visit the historic gurdwara via the corridor on Thursday.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also taking a delegation to pay obeisance at Kartarpur on Friday. AAP senior leader Harpal Singh Cheema said, “All of our MLAs led by party state president Bhagwant Mann will go to Kartarpur on Friday. We are waiting for the clearance.”
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has also announced to take a delegation to Kartarpur on Friday on the 552nd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The delegation will be headed by gurdwara body chief Jagir Kaur. “We are finalising the list of pilgrims who will be part of the SGPC jatha. The list will be sent to the Centre,” said an SGPC spokesperson.
LPAI manager Sukhdev Singh said they have made adequate arrangements for hassle-free journey of pilgrims at the Dera Baba Nanak ICP.
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