The Indian government has finally agreed to re-open the Kartarpur Corridor, allowing Sikh pilgrims to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak. It is, however, reprehensible how India politicized the issue and even blamed Pakistan for not taking the initiative.
Pakistan has already issued visas to 3,000 Indian Sikhs and is ready to welcome thousands of devotees. Elaborate arrangements have also been made for the occasion. Pakistan had also commemorated the second anniversary of the corridor’s opening. The Foreign Office has announced that the corridor was reopened and the Indian side was expected to follow suit. Yet, the Indian government delayed the matter till the eleventh hour before being issued a warning by Indian Sikhs.
The Kartarpur Corridor has been called the ‘Corridor of Hope’ by the UN chief. Inaugurated in 2019, it was widely hailed as a harbinger of peace and a shining example of efforts to promote inter-faith harmony. It was closed down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic which badly affected India. Both sides sparred on when to reopen the corridor while the Modi regime denied allowing Sikhs to visit their holy site in Pakistan on different pretenses.
The Indian government eventually succumbed to the demand or else the situation could escalate and spiral out of control. This month, more than 100,000 Sikhs took part in a Khalistan referendum in the United Kingdom. India has threatened to cancel the cards and visas of its own citizens for participating in the polls. Apart from denying the right to self-determination, Indian authorities have also attempted to expunge the democratic rights of its own citizens abroad.
The memories of the Amritsar Tragedy, whose 37th anniversary was observed on Oct 31, are still fresh when thousands of Sikhs were killed in violence as authorities stood in silence. Many politicians were among those who led mobs to attack Sikhs in Nov 1984. The situation is much different now when a hostile Hindutva government which has made lives miserable for minorities.
India needs to revisit its policies, particularly for Sikhs. Delaying or denying them the opportunity to visit their holy sites will serve no real purpose. It should perhaps use the Kartarpur Corridor to turn down the rhetoric for the sake of peace.