Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor, flagging off the first batch of more than 500 Indian pilgrims, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
Modi flagged off the first batch of pilgrims led by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh through the corridor, which has been thrown open ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 12.
He inaugurated the passenger terminal building of the corridor on the Indian side, also known as the Integrated Check Post, where pilgrims will get clearance to travel through the 4.5-km corridor.
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister thanked his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan for responding to popular sentiment and making the corridor possible.
Although the Union and state governments had planned separate functions at Dera Baba Nanak, a joint function was eventually held at Shikar Masian village, around 4 km from Dera Baba Nanak and near the Integrated Check Post, before the flagging-off ceremony.
Besides PM Modi and CM Singh, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Ferozepur MP Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore and SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal were present on the dais.
Calling it a historic occasion when a prayer by the Sikh community spread across the world had been answered, the Prime Minister said, “I am thankful to the Punjab government, SGPC and labourers for making this corridor possible. I am also grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi for understanding the feelings of India over the Kartarpur corridor issue and working accordingly. I thank the labourers in Pakistan for completing this corridor on their side in record time. Guru Nanak Dev belongs not only to India but to the whole world.”
Shortly after Khan took over last year, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office had issued a circular saying that his name “Niazi” should not be used in official communication. For many in Pakistan, the name “Niazi” carries memories of the military defeat in the 1971 war. Lt Gen A A K Niazi was the Pakistani general who had surrendered to the Indian Army in Dhaka after the 1971 Bangladesh war.
PM Modi further said, “It is my pleasure to dedicate the Kartarpur corridor to the nation. I am feeling what Sikhs feel after kar seva (voluntary service).”
The Prime Minister said Guru Nanak had demonstrated an ideal way of life. “He prayed, worked hard, and shared the fruits of his labour,’’ he said, adding that the government is holding programmes across the world through its embassies to commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
Gurbani, he said, is being translated in several languages with the help of UNESCO.
“Many Sikhs sacrificed their lives for the independence of India. The Centre has taken several steps to recognise this. Jallianwala Bagh Memorial is being modernised. Now our focus is on Sikh students improving their skills. About 27 lakh Sikh students have been given scholarships,” said Modi.
He said two more decisions of the Union government have also helped the Sikh community. “One is the removal of Article 370. It would now help the Sikh community in J&K and Leh get the same rights as other citizens. Similarly, the Citizenship Amendment Bill would make it easy for Sikhs to become citizens of the country,” he added.
Addressing the gathering, Punjab CM Amrinder Singh said, “They have been trying to create disturbance in Kashmir. And now their eye is on Punjab. I want them to hear that Punjabis will not tolerate any aggression. You will be neither successful in Kashmir nor in Punjab… I have warned them many times that if you come to fight, we will give you a befitting reply.”
The SGPC conferred the Quami Sewa Award on the PM. “Khalsa Panth is thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the opening of Kartarpur corridor,” SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said.