KARTARPUR: On Saturday a corridor will open that will allow the Sikhs to cross from India to Pakistan to visit one of the most sacred sites of the religion, and thousands of people are expected to make a pilgrimage interrupted by decades of conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fire the first group of pilgrims, and Prime Minister Imran Khan will welcome them to the sanctuary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, in Kartarpur, just four kilometers inside Pakistan.
The Kartarpur corridor marks a rare example of cooperation between the two countries. The agreement allows up to 5,000 pilgrims a day to cross a safe corridor and a bridge between the two countries, which leads directly to the tomb of Guru Nanak.
"They are very excited," Kartarpur shrine guard Ramash Singh Arora said Thursday and said he hoped the initiative will pave the way for similar access to other Sikh sites in Pakistan in the future.
Modi will say goodbye to the pilgrims while Imran will receive them in the sanctuary of Guru Nanak
"If you look at the story, the basis of Sikhism is from Pakistan."
In the months before the opening, Pakistan employed hundreds of workers to fix the sanctuary, including the construction of a border immigration checkpoint and a bridge, as well as the expansion of the site's land.
India had long been asking Pakistan for that corridor, but years of diplomatic tensions have kept the progress on the matter on hold.
The opening takes place only a few days before Guru Nanak's 550th birthday on November 12, which is marked with celebrations of millions of Sikhs around the world.
"For more than 70 years, pilgrims have not had the opportunity to cross, to come, and that is just … it's just … it will be a really emotional moment," said Karan Deep Singh, a pilgrim. From Malaysia.
Others hoped that the corridor would help repair the ties between the two countries after years of hostility.
"It should improve and I hope it improves. Sure. Because goodwill is oozing," said Bhajan Singh Grewal of Australia.
The Sikh faith began in the fifteenth century in Lahore.
It is estimated that 20,000 Sikhs remain in Pakistan after millions fled to India after the partition in 1947, which caused the largest mass migration in human history.
Published on Dawn, November 8, 2019