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Saturday Nov 09 2019
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Pakistani Sikhs urge India to facilitate access to Dera Baba Nanak Gurdwara

Twitter/Ramesh Singh Khalsa (@RameshSingh84)/via Geo.tv

KARACHI/LAHORE: Pakistani Sikhs have urged India to facilitate access to the Gurdwara in Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.

Speaking to Geo.tv, Pakistan Sikh Council (PSC) Patron-in-Chief Sardar Ramesh Singh Khalsa said the Kartarpur Corridor's opening on Saturday was in line with Sikhism founder Guru Nanak's teachings of inclusion, peace, and interfaith harmony and that he was speechless after seeing "tears of joy in the eyes of his Sikh brethren".

Singh — who is also a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) — said it was a historic and commendable step on the part of Pakistan, thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Read more: Pakistan inaugurates Kartarpur Corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims

"It is something huge for our religion," he told Geo.tv, his voice overcome with jubilation and admiration for the Pakistani leadership ahead of the Kartarpur Corridor's inauguration ceremony.

However, the Sikh leader said New Delhi, too, needed to do something similar for the Sikh community living in Pakistan. "We appeal that India should allow the Sikh community to go to Gurudwara Baba Sri Chand Ji in Dera Baba Nanak," he added.

"The [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi's government should facilitate and give access to Pakistani Sikhs wishing to visit and pray at Dera Baba Nanak," Singh explained, referring to the Gurudwara Baba Sri Chand Ji.

Cross-border link between Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Kartarpur, Pakistan, and Gurudwara Baba Sri Chand Ji in Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, India. Screenshot via Geo.tv

Underlining that through the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan was facilitating and welcoming the Indian Sikh yatrees (pilgrims), he said a similar effort should be done by India to invite the Pakistani Sikh yatrees.

"Set aside the religion and the politics … there are some 25 million Sikhs in the world and many are warned of danger and told of the border contentions between India and Pakistan.

"Wouldn't it be amazing for Sikhs on both sides of the border to be able to visit their holy sites?" asked Singh, who has been visiting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur since a long time.

Where is Kartarpur Corridor and what does it mean for Sikhs?

Underscoring that this was a huge step by the Pakistani government and the incumbent premier, he stated: "We cannot thank enough to be able to witness this historic moment in time, we Sikhs are swaying in elation."

"Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent the last 18 years of his life here, and started farming, growing food, and distributing langar [free food for all]. Every Sikh prays at this religious place and now they will pray without any hindrances."

Singh noted that between Pakistan and India, there were so many historic figures of religious importance who bring together people irrespective of the differences in their faiths just because they were revered by everyone.

"There was Baba Sheikh Fareed (Fariduddin Ganjshakar)", whose shrine is in Pakpattan, Pakistan, and Moinuddin Chishti who shrine is "Ajmer Sharif Dargah" in India's Rajasthan, the Sikh leader said.

Also read: Sikhs await opening of Kartarpur Corridor to sacred shrine

"There have been so many Sikhs who have, since the partition in 1947, thought of visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur at some point in their life. Now, 8,000 to 10,000 Sikhs from around the world are expected to visit until November 16.

Singh underlined that although there have been numerous efforts intermittently, it was Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu who was given the honour of restarting the endeavour of the Kartarpur Corridor when he came to Pakistan as the prime minister took office last year.

According to him, some 200 Sikhs came from Malaysia and more were en route from the UK, Canada, Singapore, and the US. "We are expecting 10,000 Sikhs from around the world.

What does Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur look like now?

"The crowd in the morning would be massive. Every year, 5,000 Sikhs come from India and 1,000 to 2,000 from around the world but the number will be much higher this year," Singh added. "Pakistani Sikh brethren have welcomed Sikhs from around the world."

That, he said, would also bump up tourism and "whoever comes here will become an ambassador of peace and Pakistan [and] will spread the message of love, peace, and religious harmony" — completely in accordance with the teachings of Guru Nanak and in line with what the passage is known as locally: a peace corridor.

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