Cutting across party lines, leaders of various opposition parties have demanded that the Punjab government should immediately take up with Centre the issue of re-opening of the Kartarpur Corridor citing the relaxations given under Covid-19 restrictions in all other spheres of life. The ruling party in Punjab, the Congress, too has urged the Centre to accord permission to reopen the corridor.
In view of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Union government had suspended travel to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, through Kartarpur Corridor, in Pakistan in March this year.
On October 1, Pakistan government had issued a formal notification to reopen the corridor from its side. The Centre is yet to respond to this move.
Leader of Opposition and AAP MLA from Dirba, Harpal Singh Cheema, said that the Punjab government should immediately take up the matter of re-opening of the Kartarpur Corridor with the Centre.
“All other restrictions have been removed or relaxed to a great degree. The festival season is approaching and so are many religious events where the followers of Guru Nanak Dev would like to pay obeisance at the gurdwara at Kartarpur Sahib. This measure was taken for the common people and must be restored immediately. As it is not many people go there in one batch due to the various restrictions and therefore there will not be any issue of social distancing,” said Cheema.
Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic), Bir Devinder Singh, said that now that Pakistan has announced the re-opening of the corridor the Union government should reciprocate the gesture and allow full access to the devotees of Guru Nanak Dev.
“The government should in fact reduce the restrictions placed on devotees to visit the gurdwara in Pakistan. The Centre should not hold the sentiments of followers of Guru Nanak Dev hostage to geo-political considerations. Now that almost all Covid restrictions have been removed or relaxed pertaining to marriages, political rallies, large gatherings etc and all other religious places are open for devotees of all religions, therefore any delay on part of the Centre or the state governments in re-opening Kartarpur Corridor will be looked at with suspicion by the devotees,” he said.
Rebel AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that since all religious institutions across the country were open and more relaxations were being made with every passing day, there was no reason for keeping devotees away from Kartarpur Sahib.
“I have been demanding for quite some time now that Kartarpur Corridor should be re-opened immediately. However it is clear that neither does the Centre wants to re-open the corridor nor does Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. The comments of DGP Dinkar Gupta about the corridor had made it clear what he and people in the Punjab government think about it,” said Khaira.
Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) last week had organised kirtan near the India-Pakistan border in Dera Baba Nanak to pray for the reopening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
The SAD delegation was led by Bikram Singh Majithia. In a statement issued later, the party had demanded reopening of the corridor to facilitate pilgrims seeking to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur on the 551th Prakash Purab (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak Dev in November.
While urging Centre to give permission to open the corridor, Majithia said that the Punjab government should also adopt a positive role to facilitate early reopening of the corridor.
Majithia said all prominent pilgrimage sites across the world which had been partially or fully closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including Mecca, had been reopened. He said religious shrines across the country had also reopened. “The Union government should give permission for reopening of the Kartarpur Corridor in keeping with the sentiments of the Sikh community,” he said.
Punjab Cong backs demand
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Sunil Jakhar said that now that many restrictions had been eased, the Centre should also open the corridor once again. “The government should utilise this opportunity to build bridges with the neighbouring country and to use this religious angle to better relations. I think the Centre should take a call soon on reopening of the corridor,” said Jakhar.
Dera Baba Nanak MLA and Punjab Minister for Jails and Cooperation, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, added that when the Centre has allowed Indians to travel abroad and those abroad to travel back to India, then this restriction on Kartarpur should also go.
“Next month is the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and pilgrims would like to visit the gurdwara in Kartarpur. There is no town that the devotees would be visiting across the border but only a gurdwara and that too not in large numbers. I feel the corridor should be opened soon,” Randhawa said.
A team of officials from Pakistan had recently visited the Indian side of the Kartarpur Corridor in August in order to study the measurements of the bridge that has come up on the Indian side and which has to be linked up by a bridge on the Pakistani side of the border.
This bridge over low lying area which is prone to flooding will ensure uninterrupted access to the Gurdwara during rains. A 100-metre long bridge has already come up on Indian side and a 260 metre long bridge has to be constructed now by Pakistan.
It was on November 9, 2019 that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had inaugurated the Kartarpur Gurdwara complex after extensive renovations. Former cricketer and Congress leader, Navjot Singh Sidhu, was a special guest of honour at the ceremony. However, due to the requirements of passport and police verification of antecedents, the footfall of devotees from Punjab at the gurdwara through the corridor has been very less.
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