Kartarpur Corridor: Conspiracy and vested interests behind low footfall, says Bir Devinder

Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Assembly Bir Devinder Singh. Express photo by Jasbir Malhi

An “obnoxious effort” is currently underway to negate and nullify the very concept, purpose and viability of the Kartarpur Corridor, with entrenched elements in the government, deliberately sabotaging it and doing everything to suppress the footfall of pilgrims, former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Bir Devinder Singh, Thursday said.

In a statement, Bir Devinder Singh, currently the senior vice-president of SAD (Taksali), said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi facilitated the Corridor and thanked his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan for responding to the sentiments of the followers of Guru Nanak Dev, certain powers in India’s “deep establishment” are throwing a spanner in the works.

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“Through which empirical survey has the Government of India determined that an average Guru Nanak follower is equipped with a passport? When Pakistan is not imposing the condition of passport, then why is New Delhi insisting on sticking to the terms of the MoU signed earlier,” he asked.

Stating that India is losing out on an opportunity to call the bluff of Pakistan, he said that pilgrims should have been allowed to go to Pakistan on the basis of any valid identity proof, like the Aadhaar card. “If Pakistan had refused to accept them, we should have gone to town to expose the chinks between Imran Khan’s executive and the military,” he said.

He said the Sikh community and Punjabis at large would have grave doubts about the intentions behind the insistence on cumbersome procedural restrictions for the pilgrims opting to travel via Kartarpur Corridor.

“On one hand, the world can see an outpouring of overwhelming religious exuberance of the Sikh community and on the other hand, it can also watch the meagre numbers trudging through the Corridor. Clearly, there is a disconnect, and that disconnect is not because Sikhs and Punjabis at large are not enthusiastic to go for ‘darshan’ of the last abode of the Guru Nanak Dev, but because certain powers are creating obstacles,” Bir Devinder Singh said.
He said it was surprising that neither Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, nor Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his Union minister wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal seemed much bothered about the state of affairs regarding the Corridor.

“The Kartarpur Corridor is more than a photo-op, and now that politicians have had their faces splashed on television channels, who will take the responsibility of ensuring that the world sees the success of this Corridor that denotes peace in the trouble-torn region of South Asia?” he asked.

Bir Devinder Singh urged Amarinder Singh to use his connections in the “Delhi Durbar” to do away with undue procedural obstacles and facilitate pilgrimage along the corridor.

Calling all talk about security related worries in the context of the Kartarpur Corridor as ‘humbug’, he said there was much potential in the positive interfaith dialogue between Sikhism and Islam and this could have massive geo-political impact on the Kashmir narrative.

“This is something from which India can gain, if the powers that be wanted to utilise the potential of such a dialogue. On the other hand, they could feel threatened by it if their designs were nefarious,” he said.

Bir Devinder Singh said India should, if required, further rework the bilateral agreement with Pakistan to do away with the need for a passport as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has already consented for it.

“Why should families spend so much money on getting passports made, when all they have to do is to walk through a corridor for which their passports are not even to be inked?” he said.