Kartarpur: Colourful ceremony welcomes first jatha

The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on the Pakistan side turned out to be a lively, colourful ceremony with the first jatha of Indian pilgrims comprising, among others, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Badal speaking in glowing terms about the corridor.

While Manmohan, accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, said it was a good thing for both countries that the corridor had opened after a wait of over 70 years, Harsimrat said those talking about the possible use of corridor to revive the Khalistan movement did not believe in Guru Nanak or his teachings.

Many saw it as a jibe at Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who too was a part of the jatha. Amarinder had last week said Pakistan had a “hidden agenda” in opening the corridor.

Harsimrat’s father-in-law and former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal described it as the happiest day of his life.

Talking to journalists at Kartarpur Sahib, Puri said India’s main problems came from Pakistan army and ISI and not from the civilian government. Barring Navjot Singh Sidhu and actor and Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol, most of the Indian dignitaries didn’t sit through the speeches made by Pakistani leaders.

Most of them chose to explore other parts of the complex. Sidhu was the only Indian politician to give a speech at the ceremony. He thanked Pakistan PM Imran Khan for “creating history” by opening the corridor.

Manmohan and his wife spent considerable time at the gurdwara and also participated in the langar there.

The Akal Takht jathedar, and also the head of the jatha, was among the first to arrive at what is considered one of the holiest Sikh shrines. He said Pakistan as promised had not charged any service fee. “It was all very smooth with Indian and Pakistani officials working in tandem to facilitate the pilgrimage. Pakistan officials did look at our passports but didn’t stamp them,” he said.

The first jatha to travel through the corridor comprised pilgrims chosen from all over the world.

These included first Sikh member of European Parliament Neena Gill and NRI businessman Rami Ranger who was recently nominated to Britain’s House of Lords. Ranger also allayed fears expressed in India about Pakistan looking to fan separatist sentiments. “It will be a tragedy if that happened. Pakistan knows that it will gain by acting together with India and not the Khalistanis. With the Khalistanis, it will only get bad publicity,” he said.

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