Sikh pilgrims are visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur. Photo: file/AP  

ISLAMABAD:  Indian Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, along with his ministers and other politicians have arrived in Pakistan today (Thursday) via Kartarpur Corridor to take part in the annual commemoration of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

The Indian CM and other politicians are the   part of the first delegation to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur since March 2020. The pilgrimage to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara was suspended last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The corridor, however, reopened on Wednesday.

The delegation will visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib to attend Gurpurab, which marks the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Gurpurab will be celebrated on Friday (November 19).

The FO spokesperson had earlier said Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Om Prakash Soni, along with Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu will also visit Pakistan.

Rajasthan Cabinet Minister Harish Chaudhry and eight members of the Indian Punjab Legislative Assembly will also be part of the delegation, the FO spokesperson’s statement had said.

However, Sidhu’s media adviser, Surinder Dalla, later said the Punjab Congress president will visit Kartarpur Corridor to pay obeisance on November 20, and not today.

Earlier, Channi had welcomed the Indian government’s decision of reopening the Kartarpur Corridor and said the state cabinet will be part of the first “jatha” (group) which will visit the historic shrine in Pakistan on November 18, the Hindustan Times had reported.

Sikh pilgrims start arriving as Kartarpur Corridor reopens

Thousands of Sikh pilgrims crossed the border into Pakistan from India and the rest of the world Wednesday ahead of the 552nd birth anniversary of the religion’s founder, Baba Guru Nanak.

The Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free crossing allowing Indian Sikhs to visit the temple in Pakistan where Guru Nanak died in 1539, first opened in 2019 for Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary but was closed last year because of the pandemic.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Corridor will re-open from Wednesday ahead of Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations this Friday.

“In a major decision, that will benefit large numbers of Sikh pilgrims, PM @narendramodi govt has decided to re-open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from tomorrow,” he said on Twitter.

“I am sure that (the) govt’s decision to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor will further boost the joy and happiness across the country,” Shah added.

A Pakistani official source said the Corridor had never been closed on the Pakistan side, and that they were waiting for confirmation from Indian authorities that the pilgrims would be allowed to cross.

The white-domed shrine in Kartarpur, a small town just four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan, had remained out of reach of Indian Sikhs for decades because of hostile relations between the two countries.

When Pakistan was carved out of India at the end of British rule in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the Pakistan side of the border, while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.

There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan after millions fled to India following the religious violence ignited by Partition.

Guru Nanak, born in 1469 to a Hindu family near the present-day Pakistani city of Lahore, is revered both by Sikhs and Hindus who prepare community feasts known as langars to mark his birth anniversary.

With additional input from APP and AFP

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