Govt may open route to Kartarpur shrine in Pak
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 30 (2008)
The Government of India is seriously considering opening the pilgrimage route to Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan. Sikhs settled in India have long been seeking visa-free visit to the shrine, located on the banks of the Ravi, right across Dera Baba Nanak town in Gurdaspur.
In a letter to minister of state (independent charge) of youth affairs and sports M.S. Gill, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has conveyed the government’s sentiment on the issue close to Sikh hearts.
The letter was written in response to Gill’s earlier communication to Mukherjee in this regard, wherein, he sought opening of the pilgrimage route to Kartarpur at the earliest. Gill, in his communication, also made a reference to the government’s budgetary support to Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina.
Speaking to The Tribune today in the wake of Mukherjee’s recent visit to Pakistan and Kartarpur, Gill said, “The external affairs minister has said that India would seriously pursue the matter with Pakistan. But I would like to ask the Pakistan government to make a formal proposal to India in this regard.”
During the NDA regime, Pakistan had made an offer of considering visa-free visit for Sikhs to Kartarpur. The current Pakistan government has again made such an offer. Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan minister for religious affairs recently said they had no objection to visa-free travel of Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur, situated in Narowal in Pakistan.
“This offer must be formalised considering India’s recent commitment to honour the Sikh sentiment with respect to Kartarpur Sahib,” said Gill, who has long been hammering the issue in Parliament where he stated, “Kartarpur is my Mecca, my Rome, my Jerusalem.”
Kartarpur is of immense significance to Sikhs, as it was here that Guru Nanak spent the fag end of his life, consolidating and preaching the Sikh faith. The town is just about 1.5 km away from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur on the Indian side.
The river separates the two towns. Sikhs visiting Gurdaspur can, at best, bow before Kartarpur Sahib from a distance.
“This is not fair considering Kartarpur’s significance to Sikhs. The route needs to be opened at the earliest. Having an agreement that in dry season, allows movement of pilgrims across the bridge over the Ravi channel can do this. The bridge can have barbed wires to take care of the security aspect,” Gill said.
He had earlier conveyed these feelings to Mukherjee in an official communication, copies of which he sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Punjab Monitor Magazine