A year on, uncertainty surrounds reopening of Kartarpur corridor
Uncertainly prevails over reopening of the Kartarpur corridor, which provides Indian pilgrims visa-free access to the last resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak in Kartarpur, Pakistan, even as its closure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic completed one year on Tuesday.
This despite the fact that members of the Sikh community have made scores of appeals to the Union government to reopen it so as to offer prayers at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, located just 4 kilometers from the international border.
Dedicated to the 550th Parkash Gurpurb (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak, the corridor was inaugurated by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on November 9, 2019. The corridor remained operational for only four months before governments of both countries closed it to curb the virus spread. Even during those four months, several controversies cast shadow over it, and the turnout of pilgrims remained low.
Only 59,000 people used the corridor, even as India asked Pakistan to allow 5,000 pilgrims daily and 10,000 on special days.
Citing improvement in the pandemic situation, the Pakistan government first expressed its willingness to reopen the corridor on June 27 last. It then announced to reopen it on October 3, but India did not take a call. As a result, the integrated check-posts on both sides of the border continue to wear a deserted look.
Since the government has allowed opening of places of worship across the country, Sikh community leaders have made scores of appeals to the central government to reopen the corridor and lift the suspension, but to no avail.
‘Covid-19 outbreak is just an excuse’
Akal Takht acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh said the government is keeping the corridor shut on the pretext of the pandemic. “The prolonged closure gives one reason to doubt the government’s intentions. When all religious places are open and thousands of devotees are visiting them, why are Sikhs being stopped from visiting their sacred shrine? We again urge the government not to remain adamant on the issue,” he said.
Sukhwinder Singh, a Sikh leader from Agwan village near Dera Baba Nanak, said,
“Indian Sikhs had to wait for 70 years for opening of the corridor. Now when the corridor was constructed by spending crores of rupees, it must be reopened.Also, the corridor also raised hope of development of historic Dera Baba Nanak town which has been in a state of neglect.”
Punjab cabinet minister and Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “There should be no hesitation in reopening the corridor. I don’t understand the policies of the BJP government at the Centre. If pilgrims can be allowed to visit Nankana Sahib, why cannot they travel 3-4 km through the corridor for a few hours?”
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