The first “jatha" or group of pilgrims to cross into Pakistan from India through the Kartarpur corridor hailed the inauguration of the corridor that was a long standing demand of the Sikh community.
The corridor that will allow Indian pilgrims to cross from Dera Baba Nanak gurudwara in Gurdaspur district of Punjab to the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district was thrown open on Saturday.
Former Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal described it as his “lifelong wish" getting fulfilled with the corridor opening to devotees from India. “This is the happiest day in my life," he said adding that he appreciated the work of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan in getting the corridor constructed in the space of a year.
Sikhs are gearing up to mark the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev on 12 November, an event that the Indian government is taking steps to mark in a grand way. The opening of the corridor is one of the events that was planned around the celebrations. It has also been a long standing demand of the community given the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara – where Guru Nanak lived the last years of his life – is about four kilometres from the Indian border, inside Pakistan. Prior to the construction of the corridor, Indian devotees used to see the shrine through binoculars from the Indian side given that the two countries share hostile relations.
Badal said “there should not be any apprehension" on the part of India that Pakistan would use the corridor to re-ignite a Sikh insurgency in Punjab state.
Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal described Kartarpur as the “corridor of peace" adding that devotees of Guru Nanak were waiting 70 years for the opening of the corridor.
When asked about apprehensions expressed by people including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that the corridor could be used to promote a Sikh insurgency, the minister said: “this view could be expressed only by people who don’t believe in Guru Nanak’s teachings."
Giani Harpreet Singh, the head of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee which is responsible for the management of gurdwaras in three states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh and union territory of Chandigarh, said he had “no words to describe his feelings" as he came through the corridor to visit the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara. “It is a very emotional experience. It took us 8-10 minutes to reach here today," he told reporters in the Kartarpur gurudwara. Singh credited the governments of India and Pakistan for opening the corridor adding “one country could not have done it without the other."
“The arrangements on both sides of the border were excellent," he said.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur who were part of the first official delegation from India, also hailed the opening of the corridor.
Besides the former prime minister, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri, Lok Sabha MP from Gurdaspur Sunny Deol and former minister of state for External Affairs Preneet Kaur were some of the others who made it to Kartarpur as part of the official delegation for the inauguration.