CM protests Pak restriction on ‘only Sikhs’ to travel to Kartarpur Sahib

Chandigarh, January 23: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday protested against Pakistan’s proposal to allow only Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, pointing out that Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was a universal Guru, revered by followers of all religions, especially Hindus.

The Chief Minister has 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.

In a statement issued here, Captain Amarinder 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 casteless service for all, said the Chief Minister, adding that all gurdwaras are open to all, without religious bias.

A large number of Hindus in India were ardent followers of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, 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 Chief Minister further noted, adding that 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 Sikhs 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 Pak government on entry through Kartarpur Corridor, the Chief Minister also objected to the condition of number of pilgrims proposed by them. It was not correct to limit the number of people to 15 a group, he said, adding that individual yatris should be permitted. Advocating ‘khulle Dharshan’ for devotees, he further said the restriction of 500 pilgrims per day should also not be there, especially in November 2019, when the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji will be celebrated.

The Chief Minister also expressed concern at the reported clause making 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, he observed.

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 Corridor before coming to a formal agreement in this regard.

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 was 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, said Captain Amarinder.