Kartarpur Sahib Corridor And The Politics Surrounding Punjab

Ever since the decision regarding the opening of Kartarpur corridor came to the fore after Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s intervention, all is not well in Punjab. Though the historic decision by Punjab and the central government will open the gates for the Sikh devotees to easily pay homage to their first Guru, a lot of controversies seems to lie ahead.

The central government has approved the decision to develop the Kartarpur Sahib corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district till the gurdwara in Pakistan. Bharatiya Janta Party is now trying hard to successfully opening the corridor under the Modi led Government to garner support from the Sikh community. Captain Amarinder Singh in the month of July in Vidhan Sabha had presented the idea of opening the corridor and how it is important for the Sikh sentiments considering Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur. The step to open the corridor was not initiated by the central government then, and only after the intervention by Punjab CM, the approval was finally confirmed by the Union Cabinet on November 23.

To understand the importance of Kartarpur Corridor and how politics has boiled up in the state and initiated a ‘war of words’ on Twitter and TV debates, let’s understand things clearly.

What Is Kartarpur Corridor And How Its Construction Will Help The Devotees?

The first of the 10 Sikhs Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev had spent the last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur. Kartarpur Sahib was established by Guru Nanak in 1522.

The present gurdwara is located by the river Ravi 4 km from the Dera Sahib Railway Station and about 120 km northeast of Lahore, it was built on the site where Guru Nanak had died in 1539.

Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak for the visitors. The gurdwara was opened to pilgrims after repairs and restoration in 1999, and Sikh jathas (A jatha is an armed body of Sikhs who are known to have existed in Sikh tradition since the beginning of the Khalsa) have been visiting the shrine regularly ever since. Jathas from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year- for Baishakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev.

The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims an easy access to the shrine in Kartarpur and India will build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border, as was informed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. A point to be noted here is that India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore and since then, as said by the Punjab CM himself the proposal was also sent during the time of UPA Government, but Pakistan did not take a firm stand on it.

Laying Of The Foundation Stone

On November 28, Pakistan Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the Pakistani side. He had invited the former Indian Cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the opening ceremony. Whereas, Indian President Ramnath Kovind and Captain Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone for the same on the Indian side on November 26.

This came a day after India and Pakistan agreed to construct the corridor on their respective sides so that Sikh devotees could worship at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib during the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

There have been speculations about BJP pushing forth the ceremony of the foundation stone in a hurry without the actual preparations just in a way to prove their competence over Pakistan. The ceremony in Punjab concluded on November 25 and Pakistan agreed to felicitate the ceremony by laying the stone on their side. Sidhu attending the ceremony triggered controversy right after Captain Amarinder Singh refused the invitation from Pakistan’s foreign minister after the Amritsar grenade attack. He said, “I can’t go to Pakistan when terrorist acts are being carried out here.” therefore, Sidhu went to Pakistan on Imran Khan’s invitation.

Row Over Kartarpur Corridor

Back in August this year, a political row erupted when Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Imran Khan. A series of controversy aroused when Sidhu was criticised for hugging Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa at the occasion – people raged over twitter after this and he was labelled as an ‘Anti-Nationalist’ by many politicians.

Sidhu from then has been in a bad light for being friends with the ‘enemy’ and projecting Punjab and India in a poor state to Pakistan, for hugging and continuing to go there despite the fact that Pakistan has constantly overseen terrorism in the state.

In his defence, Sidhu had made many comments saying him hugging Bajwa was out of his happiness over Islamabad granting access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

When asked to comment about Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan despite him not going for the same, Captain Amarinder Singh replied most humbly. He said, “Everyone has to take their own decision. I was invited, and I said it wouldn’t be right for me to go, given that I am Chief Minister of the state that is facing terrorism from the other side. But it is for everyone to take their own decision and that may be his way of thinking. Why should I interfere?” Captain Amarinder Singh is known for his development policies, capability, firm stand and a sense of belonging when it comes to Punjab and its people. He has initiated a revolution to change Punjab and managed to tackle it with utmost grace and dignity. When he and the Punjab Police unearthed the grenade attack in Amritsar in just 72 hours, people praised him for his understanding of the pain and not sliding the files underneath just like other politicians and political parties do. He took a firm stand on the terrorists and nabbed the ‘deteriorators of peace’ quickly.

There have been numerous instances where Sidhu’s ‘Hugplomacy’ has troubled and ruffled up things in Punjab. Captain has portrayed the state in a good light despite facing tremendous backlash every day from the Akalis over the worsening of the state which was initiated by them being in power.

Captain’s efforts in the opening of the Kartarpur corridor won’t go unnoticed and no matter how hard BJP tries to shun the state’s efforts away by zeroing others’ efforts and continuing their ‘jumlas’, Punjab will outshine everybody.

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