November 9, 2021 4:53:08 pm
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Akali Dal Member of Parliament from Bathinda and former Union Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal Monday requested him to “intervene personally and urgently to get the necessary diplomatic and other steps initiated to re-open Kartarpur Sahib Corridor”.
The letter also urged the Prime Minister to “revive the decades old proposal for the inclusion of this holy land into India through a land swap, already discussed between the governments of India and Pakistan; and to take up the issue of a peace corridor linking all the historical religious places in Pakistan with access provided to devotees from all across the world, especially from India”.
The 4.7-km corridor, which fulfilled the long-pending demand and prayers of devotees, was inaugurated on November 9, 2019 to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh master Guru Nanak Dev and provided road access to pilgrims to pay obeisance at the gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib, the final resting place of the founder of Sikhism, in Pakistan. However, the corridor had to be shut down in March last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am writing this to give voice to the overwhelming sentiment or the devout and brave Sikh masses not only for the re-opening of the Indo-Pak corridor to facilitate devotees to have an un-interrupted Darshan of the sacred Gurdwara Sahib at Kartarpur Sahib (Pakistan) which Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji graced with his holy presence for nearly two decades but also for according it the status of ‘Permanent Peace Corridor’ between the two countries. This will be the first step towards the eventual fulfilment of the sacred Sikh prayer for ‘khulle darshan deedare te seva sarnbhal (unhindered access and the right to perform service of the Guru)’ of all the sacred shrines which were weaned from the devout Sikh masses in 1947,” Harsimrat wrote in the letter to PM.
Re-iterating the long-standing demand that India and Pakistan should swap territories so that Kartarpur Sahib forms a part of the Indian mainland, exchanging it with a suitable piece of land for Pakistan from elsewhere, Harsimrat added, “I may point out here that this demand was first raised by Shiromani Akali Dal as (sic) 1948. In fact, in 1969 the then Prime Minister of India agreed to formally approach the Government of Pakistan for this exchange of land on the pattern that the two countries had earlier followed in the Ferozepur sector with regard to the martyrdom place of Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh ji as well as between India and Bangladesh with regard to the Farakka Dam.”
“But the proposal was shot down by both the Pakistan government and, strangely, by the then Congress government in Punjab,” she further wrote, adding, “Time has come to renew this proposal for the permanent inclusion of the sacred Kartarpur Sahib shrine into India with suitable exchange of territory.”
She further wrote, “I may also point out that before the 1965 India Pakistan war, devotees could have free darshan of the sacred shrine at Kartarpur Sahib informally by crossing the Jassar bridge on the river Ravi, as border controls between the two countries were not strictly enforced until the 1965 war. But the bridge was destroyed by Pakistani forces later and since then access to our sacred historical place has remained severely hindered and tightly regulated. The situation was eased with the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor but even that hope lies stifled now, awaiting a positive turn between the two countries. It is worth recalling that the Sikh devotees were allowed access to Sikh shrines in September 1974 through a protocol signed between India and Pakistan but Karatarpur Sahib Gurdwara was not included by the Pakistan government in this protocol.”
She added, “To get this on the negotiating table, prominent Akali leader (Late) Jathedar Kuldeep Singh ji Wadala for decades organised protest and awareness candle marches on the Indian side of the Indo-Pak border near Shri Kartarpur Sahib. Sardar Wadala highlighted the utter neglect of Kartarpur Sahib Area by the Pakistan authorities as a result of which the sacred shrine lay abandoned, its lands taken over by real estate sharks and others.”
She further wrote, “It was only after the persistent efforts of the former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that the Governments of India and Pakistan finally agreed in 1998 to consider the Sikh demand in this regard when the then Punjab (India) Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal successfully persuaded the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ji to raise this Issue with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif during the famous Lahore Bus Trip. Sardar Badal’s efforts bore fruit as the Vajpayee-Sharif understanding led to a mutual consent for the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Finally, it fell to your share and initiative to expedite the completion and the opening of the historic Kartarpur Sahib corridor. I am sure this will go down as one of your most iconic contributions to peace and understanding in the world. In your own famous words, the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was a historic achievement in the same class as the pulling down of the Berlin Wall.”
“Honourable Prime Minister, while the Berlin Wall in Germany stands demolished, the Berlin Wall for the Sikhs still persists on the Indo-Pak border,” she added.
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