India creating hurdles for Peace Corridor

From Abid Usman
LAHORE: After more than seven decades, a historic passage to one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines is finally open, but so far, the Kartarpur corridor has not lived up to the expectations that peaked in the run-up to its inauguration earlier this month.
The turnout of devotees, through the long-delayed overland passage, that connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in northwest India’s Gurdaspur with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, was lower than expected due to the barriers erected by the Modi administration.
“The process of online registration is very difficult. I had registered eight members of my family online, but when we arrived at the Indian Immigration Centre, we found out that only I was registered,” claimed Ramesh Singh, a Sikh from Gurdwadaspur.
While November 9 was a historic moment for many Indian Sikhs, it was not easy to manoeuvre through the roadblocks erected by the Indian authorities. For many pilgrims, the intense verification process and $20 fee surfaced as a roadblock in the holy journey that many had yearned for decades.
But despite the procedural hurdles, more than 2,500 followers of Guru Nanak along with former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of India’s Punjab state, Indian parliamentarians and former cricket star Navjot Singh made it for the opening ceremony of the corridor. While the star-studded party faced no difficulties, ordinary Sikhs from India had to go through the rigmarole.
Under the agreement between the two sides, Indian visitors to the shrine only require a passport and travel permits instead of visas. However, they are not be allowed to leave the premises of the shrine or stay overnight in Pakistan.
Harbhajan Singh, a Sikh devotee from Uttar Pardesh, said most Indian citizens do not have a passport, which makes it very difficult for them to travel outside the country. “Obtaining the Indian passport is another lengthy and costly process,” Singh said.
Tanisha Chauhan, another Sikh devotee, claimed requests to travel through the corridor face a high rejection. “The police intimidate younger Sikhs and discourage them from traveling. Applicants under the age of 35 cannot use the corridor,” she claimed.
Police, she said, accuse the youngest members of the community of using the corridor to revive the Khalistan movement, which called for an independent state for the Sikhs. India quelled the movement by charging Sikhs with sedition and brutally killing thousands.
Sikhs from all walks of life believe the process has several roadblocks in India. The keeper of the Golden Temple in India said the $20 entry fee was keeping many pilgrims away from applying for the permit.
However, to offset the financial cost of the journey, expat Sikhs from Canada and the United Kingdom have bailed out funds for those who cannot afford the $20 price tag. “More than the money it is the procedural delays from the Indian side,” said one pilgrim, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Commenting on the matter, Sardar Surat Singh, in-charge of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan offered to waive off the entry requirements for one year, but the Indian leader did not reciprocate.”
Meanwhile, Praises continue to pour in for Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan for opening the Kartarpur Corridor between Pakistan and India to facilitate Sikh Yatrees.
In what was defined as a historic moment in Pakistan’s history and for the relations between Islamabad and New Delhi, many hailed the move.
Hailing the initiative, UK Sikhs conferred ‘Lifetime achievement’ award upon PM Imran and the US State Department welcomed the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, termed it as a positive example.
Brushing all of that aside, the Indian media continues to blame Pakistan and its prime minister for every transgression between the two countries.
Indian politician and columnists Sudheendra Kulkarni also question the Indian media’s attitude towards its neighbour.
“My Sikh neighbours in Mumbai set up a ‘langar’ to celebrate Guru Nanak today They were happy when I said I’ll be going Kartarpur Sahib soon. But they asked, “Why are our TV channels blaming Pakistan all the time? Imran Khan has made good arrangements.” Good Q,” he tweeted.
PM Imran inaugurated the extended Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, situated in Kartarpur, is the second holiest place for the Sikh community.
This is 120 km away from Lahore and situated in a small village of Kotheypind at the bank of River Ravi  at a distance of only four km from Pakistan-India border.
According to the agreement reached between Pakistan and India, 5,000 Sikh yatris (pilgrims) will be allowed to visit the Gurdwara through the Corridor.