Amarinder protests Pakistan move to restrict Kartarpur travel to only Sikhs

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Chandigarh, Jan 23 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday protested against Pakistan’s proposal to allow only Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in the neighbouring country.

Pointing out that Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev, was a universal guru revered by followers of all religions, especially Hindus, the Chief Minister urged the Indian government to take up the issue with Islamabad when the latter sends its draft agreement for regulating entry into its territory through the Kartarpur Corridor.

Amarinder Singh said while Islamabad was well within its rights to set terms and conditions relating to its territorial safety and security, it should take into consideration the fact that the first Sikh Guru’s ideology is not confined to Sikhs but is emulated by people of all faiths.

“The Sikh ethos prescribes non-discrimination, with even the concept of langar being caste-less service for all. Gurdwaras are open to all, without religious bias,” the Chief Minister said in a statement here.

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“A large number of Hindus in India were ardent followers of Sri Guru Nanak Devji, and it was their cherished dream to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, which was closely associated with the first Sikh Guru,” he pointed out.

“There was for years the tradition of Hindu families converting their eldest sons to Sikhism. The influence of Sikhism in India was so strong that to exclude members of other religions was not something that Pakistan government should even remotely consider.

“To keep such followers out of Kartarpur Sahib just because they were not Sikh was not logical,” he said, urging the Indian government to take up the matter with the Pakistan government on priority.

Citing media reports of the draft agreement being prepared by the Pakistan government on entry through the Kartarpur Corridor, the Chief Minister also objected to the condition of the number of pilgrims proposed by them.

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“It is not correct to limit the number of people to 15 in a group. Individual yatris should be permitted,” he said, advocating ‘khulle darshan’ for devotees.

He said that the restriction of 500 pilgrims per day should also not be there, especially in November 2019, when the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev will be celebrated.

The Chief Minister also expressed concern at the reported clause making a passport imperative for travel by pilgrims. “With Punjab’s large rural population having no passports, such a move would deprive them of making the historic pilgrimage.”

The Chief Minister urged the governments of India and Pakistan to sit across the table and thrash out all issues to facilitate smooth and hassle-free travel by pilgrims through the corridor before coming to a formal agreement in this regard.

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“Such regressive steps, as were reportedly being considered by the Pakistan government, to control entry through the corridor would negate the positive initiative taken by their government and it is up to the Indian government to resolve all such issues amicably so that the pilgrims get the maximum benefit from the historic decision of the two nations,” Amarinder Singh added.

The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, located about three kilometres from the international border near the 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 it was his final resting place.

–IANS

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