The inauguration of the Sikh shrine at Kartarpur in Pakistan has given a new hope for India-Pakistan relations and for lakhs of pilgrims to visit the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev.
The proposed religious corridor, which will have four kilometers from the Indian side of Gurdaspur in Gurdaspur district and three kilometers from Pakistan’s Kartarpur in Narowal district, will include the bridge across the river Ravi.
Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism spent his last 18 years preaching and farming at Kartarpur village, Pakistan till he passed away in 1539.
The original Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur was destroyed by floods. Later, Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, grandfather of current Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh, reconstructed the shrine to its current form. The shrine was renovated again during the time of Pakistan's former dictator General Pervez Musharraf as it went unnoticed for years.
In 1999, former Prime Minister (PM) Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a talk on opening the corridor and sending Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur. Later, former PM Manmohan Singh also spoke to Musharraf, but the work didn’t progress except the building of integrated check-post at Wagah border on the Indian side for the Sikh pilgrims.
Recently, Punjab tourism minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu was invited to the oath taking ceremony of newly elected PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan. After facing criticism for receiving a hug from General Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of the Pakistan army, Sidhu claimed that Bajwa had assured him of opening the corridor before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Khan, in a press-conference to Indian journalist, said, “...the only way forward is peace..."
Common faces, common culture, similar food and habits separated by the Radcliff line makes us two countries in logger heads due to various strategic issues. My images are a testimony of the historical event which all Indian Sikhs once thought was an out of reach idea. Today not only the government or the community but the world seems hopeful to see a new relationship between Indian and Pakistan.