Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced two concessions for Indians visiting the Kartarpur shrine, but they were aimed only at Sikhs. Indian Sikhs visiting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through the newly-built Kartarpur corridor don’t need to carry passports and won’t be charged any fee for two special days: one, when the corridor is opened on 9 November, and two, on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, 12 November.
Punjab’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a former Indian Army captain, was quick to call out Khan, who was once his country’s cricket captain. While Singh thanked Khan for his gesture, he urged the Pakistani prime minister to extend these concessions to all citizens of secular India. He also requested Khan to waive the “service fee" of $20 that Pakistan intends charging every Indian visitor on days other than the two mentioned above.
Secularism is an alien concept in Pakistan, which was founded on the basis of religion and continues to apportion privileges and rights on the basis of people’s professed faith. A differential system of fees for Sikhs and others would not only appall Indians, it also makes little sense from a practical perspective. How will Pakistani border authorities tell Sikhs apart? Indian passports make no mention of faith, and thankfully so. Outwardly displayed symbols, such as turbans, are at best a sign of religious observation, not inner belief. Indians of various denominations hold Guru Nanak Dev, in whose honour the shrine was built, in high esteem as a spiritual guide. Why not simply do away with the $20 fee, Mr Khan? Some sportsmanship, please.