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28 Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan via Kartarpur Corridor on 1st day of its reopening

Pakistan had announced the reopening of the corridor in June earlier this year, whereas the Indian government gave its formal nod for the same only on November 16 (Tuesday).

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
Updated: November 17, 2021 9:03:46 pm
The devotees were welcomed with flower garlands as they crossed the border by Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee president, Ameer Singh, CEO of Project Management Unit, Muhammad Latif, and MPA Ramesh Singh Arrora, among others. (Express Photo)

The first batch of 28 Sikh devotees entered Pakistan via the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on Wednesday — some 20 months after pilgrimage was suspended in March 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Kartarpur Corridor is a visa-free border crossing and corridor, connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to the border with India. The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres from the India–Pakistan border on the Pakistani side without a visa. However Pakistani Sikhs are unable to use the border crossing, and cannot access Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side without first obtaining an Indian visa or unless they work there.

On Wednesday, the first day of the reopening of the corridor after the pause, the devotees were welcomed with flower garlands as they crossed the border by Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee president, Ameer Singh, CEO of Project Management Unit, Muhammad Latif, and MPA Ramesh Singh Arrora, among others.

Dr. Neelam Grewal, Vice Chancellor, Guru Kashi University Damdma Sahib Talwandi Sabo entering into Pakistan via the Kartarpur Corridor to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib on Wednesday. (Express Photo)

All necessary Covid-related protocols were in place with the temperature of all the devotees being checked as they crossed the zero line. A delegation — headed by Ameer Singh — waited a few steps away from the zero line with the garlands in hand to accord a warm welcome to the first jatha of pilgrims.

The corridor was inaugurated on November 9, 2019 was open for only four months before it was closed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Pakistan had announced the reopening of the corridor in June earlier this year, whereas the Indian government gave its formal nod for the same only on November 16 (Tuesday).

After the government’s formal nod, a group of 28 pilgrims — some new and some others from a backlog — were allowed to make the cross over to Pakistan and back.

Sources said that although authorities had compiled a list of 51 devotees for the first day, only 28 of them used the corridor as it reopened on Wednesday. Some devotees had received calls on Tuesday but could not make the trip on such a short notice.

On Wednesday, Dr Neelam Grewal, vice chancellor of Guru Kashi University Damdma Sahib Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda, was among the first devotees to enter Pakistan via the corridor after the outbreak of Covid and were welcomed with flower garlands.

“I received a phone call from authorities yesterday and came straight to Dera Baba Nanak on Wednesday. I was lucky to be among the first to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib after its reopening,” said Grewal. While talking to the Pakistani delegation, she expressed her happiness over the opening of corridor and said that it is good for humanity.

Punjab Chief Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee, will also lead special Jathas to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib via the corridor on Thursday and Friday respectively.

Sources said that around 100 devotees, mostly VIPs, are likely to be part of the group that will be headed by CM Channi. Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu, is also likely to be a part of the delegation.

Meanwhile, officials of Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee said that it was still compiling a list of devotees, who will be part of the special jatha on Friday.

The Aam Aadmi Party and the Bhartiya Janta Party have been also sending their delegations to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.

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