Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday welcomed the Union Home Ministry decision to fast track the development of the Kartarpur Corridor, but demanded "passport and visa free `khule darshan' for pilgrims visiting the historic gurdwara" across the international border with Pakistan.
"Welcome decision of @HMOIndia to build #KartarpurCorridor on fast track basis to enable Sikh pilgrims to visit the historic Gurdwara in #Pakistan in time for 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I extend all support from my government for the project," the Chief Minister tweeted.
Amarinder, in a statement here on Sunday, made it clear that it was not enough to build the Corridor on fast track but the pilgrims also needed to be facilitated to have `khule darshan' by waiving the requirement of passport and visa to travel across the border.
"The condition of passport and visa would prevent thousands of devotees without passports, particularly those living in the rural belt of Punjab, from fulfilling their aspiration to pay obeisance at the historic gurdwara associated with the life of the first Sikh Guru," pointed out the Chief Minister.
"The Central government could easily provide access to the gurdwara to these non-passport holder devotees by waiving the condition of passport and visa, and using other documents instead to verify the identity of the pilgrims," he added.
"The Corridor would provide an extremely limited window of travel, with restricted access, and would be a high-security route to the gurdwara, which makes it easier for the government to waive the condition of passport and visa," the Chief Minister added.
The first Sikh Guru preached universality, which could be realized if all his devotees are now allowed to pray at the gurdwara which remains integrally linked with his life, Amarinder said.
"Let us not deprive the genuine devotees of access to the historic gurdwara only because they do not have passports," he said, urging the Central government to accept his request in this regard.
Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev, is revered by followers of all religions, especially Sikhs and Hindus.
The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, located about 4.5 km from the international border near the border town of Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, is significant for the Sikh community as it is here that Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years of his life and was his final resting place.
The governments of India and Pakistan are trying to facilitate the travel of pilgrims to offer prayers at the gurdwara, located in Narowal district of Pakistan. The demand for this was being made by the Sikh community for the past over 70 years.