Only 700 pilgrims cross over by Kartarpur Corridor despite fee waiver on Parkash Purb
Barely three days after the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, only 700 Indian pilgrims crossed over to Pakistan to visit Darbar Sahib gurdwara on Tuesday even though Pakistani authorities waived a $20 service fee and doubled the number of pilgrims who can use the facility on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Indian officials cited the online registration process and the requirement of passports to register as two major reasons for the low footfall for the corridor, which gives Indians visa-free access to the gurdwara built at the spot when the founder of Sikhism spent the last 18 years of his life.
On Sunday and Monday, as few as 250 and 122 Indian pilgrims went to Kartarpur through the corridor that was thrown open on November 9. Thousands of pilgrims from India and other country had attended the inauguration ceremony in Pakistan that was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Tuesday, more than 40,000 devotees, who paid obeisance at the Gurdwara Chola Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Dera Baba Nanak had a glimpse of the Kartarpur gurdwara from the ‘darshan asthan’, a raised platform near the zero line, with binoculars installed by the Border Security Force (BSF).
Most of them had no clarity about the documents required to cross over to Pakistan through the corridor.
“This is the first time when 40,000 devotees reached here on Parkash Purab. Earlier, nearly 8,000 to 9,000 devotees would pay obeisance on the occasion. This happened due to the opening of the corridor,” said Dera Baba Nanak municipal council president Parmeet Singh Bedi.
“Most of the devotees wanted to cross over with their Aadhaar cards. Many had even brought their passports along but were not aware about the online registration process. So they had to return after paying obeisance from the ‘darshan asthan’,” Bedi said.
MB Sabharwal, a 72-year-old resident of Jalandhar, said: “We learnt through the media that only the Aadhaar card is required to go to Kartarpur. My family was not allowed by security agencies, who said passports and online registration are a must. Like me, thousands of people are being harassed as they are not aware about the procedure.”
Gurmukh Singh of Fazilka said, “I and my family members wanted to pay obeisance at Kartarpur Sahib on the auspicious occasion. But here we came to know that online registration is required. The government should make people aware about these things so that devotees don’t face problems.”
Dera Baba Nanak sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Gursimran Singh Dhillon said, “We are appealing to people to apply online first.”
Pakistan’s Sikh minority observed the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on Tuesday, with the main ceremony being held at Gurdwara Janamsthan at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Sikhism’s founder.
Among those who attended the event was interior minister Ejaz Shah, who joined large numbers of Sikhs for the celebrations. In his speech, he said the Kartarpur Corridor was a great gift from the Pakistan government to Sikhs, and he hoped it would pave the way for peace and friendship in the region.
Pakistan will continue to look after the shrines of religious minorities, including the Sikh community, “as best as possible”, he said.
Addressing the ceremony, Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said government is committed to protecting the heritage of religious minorities. He added that the Pakistani people had “opened their hearts for the Kartarpur Corridor”.
In a message on the occasion, Pakistani Punjab’s chief minister Usman Buzdar said opening of the corridor had rejuvenated the Sikh community and this was another historic step by the government to promote religious harmony.
Indian missions around the world organised activities such as Baisakhi celebrations, photo exhibitions, seminars, talks, essay competitions, screening of documentary films on Guru Nanak to mark the birth anniversary. Special events such as planting of saplings, rendition of kirtans based on the ‘Gurbani’, blood donation camps, and setting up chairs in the name of Guru Nanak were also organised.
Missions in countries with a large Sikh diaspora such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy, France and Germany will project a video at prominent locations such as Palazzo Senatorio in Rome, the Maritime Museum in Sydney and Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Dubai. The video features prominent teachings of Guru Nanak, his quotes and the three pillars of Sikhism - naam japo, kirat karo and vaṇḍ chakko.