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Friday, April 12, 2024

Is Pakistan going to transfer the management of Kartarpur corridor?

India claims that it has seen reports that Islamabad is transferring the management of the corridor from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). Is it true?

Pakistan on Thursday rejected India’s claim that Islamabad plans to transfer the management of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims to a state-run non-Sikh body. “Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and fallacious propaganda by the Indian government against the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Earlier, New Delhi said it has seen reports that Islamabad is transferring the management of the corridor, opened in November last year to facilitate the Indian Sikhs, to Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

“This unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable and runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large,” a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, calling on Islamabad to “reverse its arbitrary decision to deprive the Sikh community (of) its right to manage the affairs of the holy Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.”

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), which is currently holding the corridor’s management itself has rejected the Indian claim, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry statement said.

The “malicious” propaganda, it added, by the Indian government is simply an attempt to malign the “Peace Corridor” initiative by “casting mischievous aspersions against the interests of the Sikh community and to detract attention from India’s own reprehensible human rights violations of minorities in India.”

The PSGPC remains responsible for carrying out rituals in Gurdwaras, including the Kartarpur as per “Sikh Rehat Maryada” — code of conduct and conventions for Sikhism — according to the statement.

The Project Management Unit (PMU) under the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has “simply been created to facilitate the PSGPC in this regard,” it went on to say.

“Any insinuations regarding ‘transferring’ the affairs of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur from the PSGPC to the PMU are not only contrary to the facts but also aimed at creating religious disharmony by the Hindutva-driven BJP government in India,” the statement further said.

The Sikh community from all over the world, it added, remains greatly appreciative of the efforts made by Pakistan “to complete the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Project in record time and for the excellent arrangements made to facilitate the pilgrims.”

Read More: The gateway to peace: Kartarpur serves as more than just a symbol

Islamabad itself “advised” New Delhi to take steps to “protect its minorities and their places of worship, rather than feigning misleading and sham concerns for the rights of minorities elsewhere,” the statement said.

PM Modi taking credit for Sikhs rights?

The Modi-led BJP did not show much interest in the construction of the Kartarpur corridor. There have been various baseless allegations, leveled against Pakistan by New Delhi and violations of Pakistan’s airspace. Despite all the tactics used by the BJP, Pakistan did not decide to shut down the corridor.

But later on, the Indian premier declared himself as the champion of Sikh’s rights, who managed the opening of the corridor for them. A statement of the Indian premier irked Sikh Community. Ravinder Pal Singh Timma, President Gursikh Welfare Association, told local media in Agra that this corridor was a brainchild of the association and they had been trying to get this which was sanctioned by the government of Pakistan for the past 19 years.

He also showed some past documentation and correspondence he personally had with the foreign ministries of both India and Pakistan, Mr Timma said that “What the BJP is doing now, it is taking credit of the fruit that has been borne by the efforts of the Sikhs. The Sikh community has never received its due share in the country and have always been deceived. 87 per cent of the martyrs in the freedom struggle were from Punjab, yet the Sikh community was never appreciated.”

Read More: UN Secretary General meets Sikhs at kartarpur Corridor, Praises Pakistan

He said that he had even talked to the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during the Agra summit and requested that the Kartarpur shrine be gifted to India, or be declared No-Man’s Land and a corridor be constructed leading from the Indian border to the shrine.

Religious Minorities in India

The rise of Hindutva in India has been marginalizing religious minorities in India. According to several reports, the primary target of mob violence of BJP goons are Muslims but sometimes Sikhs who are believed to be ideologically alien are also beaten up.

The 2018 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom released by Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, in June stated that “Hindu-groups had used violence, intimidation, and harassment against Muslims and low-caste Dalits in 2017 to force a religion-based national identity.”

Read More: World watches Kartarpur Corridor keenly as it brings nations closer

It is important to recall that RSS does not believe that Sikhs are a distinct religious community. RSS’s insistence that Sikhs are ‘Kesadhari Hindus’ though a ‘valorous’ ones hurt religious sentiments of the later and questions their distinctive identity in so-called secular India. Interestingly, there is a strong belief amongst Sikhs that RSS is actively conspiring to undermine their religion through various direct and indirect means to ultimately wipe them out.