Equating the service charge demanded by Pakistan from Indian pilgrims for visiting the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara with jaziya (a tax on non-muslims), Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday demanded its immediate withdrawal.
Amarinder, who reviewed the progress on the Kartarpur corridor here, said emperor Akbar had abolished jaziya , a controversial and regressive tax, during his rule. The proposed service/ charge of USD 20 on each visitor is against the Sikh ideology of allowing khulle darshan deedar (free access) of the gurdwara sahibs that remained in Pakistan after the Partition, Amarinder said.
Informally interacting with the media at Dera Baba Nanak, Amarinder said he has already sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi s intervention to pressure Pakistan into withdrawing the service charge. The CM said that he has suggested that the minister of external affairs take up the matter in bilateral meetings on the corridor.
Pakistan, during joint secretary-level talks between the two nations early this month, had insisted on charging a service fee of USD 20 from each Indian pilgrim. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP too had equated the provision with jaziya .
The M expressed the confidence that the work on Kartarpur Corridor on the Indian side would be completed by October 30. He, however, expressed concern about the pace of progress on the Pakistani side. In response to a question on the security threat along the Corridor, he underlined the need to remain on constant guard.
Asked about the differences with the SGPC on the the 550th birth anniversary celebration of Guru Nanak Dev, Amarinder said talks were progressing cordially and his cabinet colleague Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had met them (SGPC) on Wednesday to resolve all issues amicably. He once again urged one and all to rise above petty politics to celebrate the historic event.
Describing his visit to Dera Baba Nanak, the CM recalled that he had served in the Army in the border area during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. It was a matter of great pride and honour that valiant Indian soldiers were defending the nation s borders from external as well as internal aggression, but the frequent sacrifices they had to make was painful and disturbing, he said.
On Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu s absence from the review meeting, the chief minister pointed out that it was a Cabinet meeting and Sidhu was no longer a minister.
He also refused to comment on Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjit Singh Bains, who has been booked for allegedly misbehaving with the Gurdaspur deputy commissioner. Speaking on the increased penalty under the Motor Vehicle Act, the chief minister said since the Union government had left the final decision to the states, the minister concerned was looking into the matter.