How jingoism defeats the purpose of Kartarpur corridor from the word go

Will the Kartarpur corridor end up being a failed peace project much like the Lahore bus trip, Agra summit and other confidence-building measures we've seen before?

 |  4-minute read |   28-11-2018
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When you spot media and political jamboree around so-called India-Pakistan peace initiatives, it’s not unwise to be a little skeptical.

That’s my mantra, which stems from the history of measures that attracted a bit too much of TV cameras.

If not all, many such moves which began with a fanfare — and hailed as a “thaw” in our typical media jargon — have ended up as damp squibs.

Forget non-Sikh citizens of both India and Pakistan, if anyone had taken a poll of the global Sikh community about what Sri Kartarpur Sahib stood for before Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hugged the Pakistani army chief, the findings would have been startling.

kartarpur_sahib-copy_112818044255.jpegGenerations of Sikhs that have grown up in India have received scant education about the historical significance of the gurdwara. (Photo: India Today)

In how many Sikh homes have you ever seen images of Sri Kartarpur Sahib, now being projected — and rightly so — as the center of the Sikh faith?

Isn’t it Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar — the Golden Temple for the world outside — which has been portrayed as the nucleus of Sikhi post-Partition?

The Sikhs are not to be blamed for having ignored or neglected this shrine barely four km from India’s international border with Pakistan.

They have been brainwashed into consigning Sri Kartarpur Sahib into oblivion. Generations that grew up on this side of the border after 1947 received scant education about the historical significance of the gurdwara, which has caught global headlines overnight because of the highest-profile politics linked to it.

Until Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan breaks ground to give visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to Sri Kartarpur Sahib, the sacred site will largely be referred to as the final resting place of Guru Nanak, who passed in 1539. But the symbolism associated with Kartarpur is much higher. It’s here that Guru Nanak settled after his life-long missionary travels across the subcontinent to as far as the Arab world and back.

nanak690iq_110917065_112818044435.jpgSri Kartarpur is of great significance for Sikhs not just in India and Pakistan, but across the globe. (Photo: Facebook)

Guru Nanak spent around 18 years at Kartarpur.

It’s here where the institution of a community kitchen, or langar, which broke caste, social, religious and geographical distinctions, was formalised.

It’s here where Guru Nanak amalgamated “kirat”, or honest labour, with spiritual meditation (naam) and charity (vand chhakna). It’s here where Guru Nanak anointed his successor, whom he named Guru Angad. It’s here where Guru Nanak discarded his own sons as worthy of leading humanity in the noble mission that eventually culminated in 1708 – the year Guru Gobind Singh invested spiritual authority in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

If not everyone, many Sikhs had inadequate knowledge about the importance of Sri Kartarpur Sahib in shaping up the Sikh school of thought till the hawks in our media and political establishment pounced on Sidhu for embracing the Pakistani general in 2018.

Earlier, the sighting of this holy and historically enriching location remained limited to some enlightened devotees viewing it through their binoculars from a border post at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

Our bilateral history bears witness to failure of events hyped up as peace endeavours between the arch-rival neighbours.

The much-publicised Lahore bus trip, the Agra summit, the confidence-building measures (CBMs) and so forth — all of them were designed for media consumption and all eventually collapsed.

It’s become fashionable for every new head of government on both sides to launch something ostensibly packaged as bilateral peace in his or her term.

On each occasion, what’s disseminated on TV is an artificial glee on the faces of political leaders and over-enthusiastic media-persons covering such events.This show of delight evaporates into thin air in weeks or months, as the two sides get back to their routine business of hostility.

amarinder1-copy_112818044640.jpgDid Captain Amarinder Singh puncture the project even before it took off? (Photo: Screengrab/ANI)

Whatever his compulsions behind what he said while inaugurating the faith corridor’s Indian side, Punjab’s chief minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, punctured the project before it took off, knowingly or unknowingly. Though a state CM — that too of Punjab, which shares a common heritage with its counterpart province across the border — Capt Singh illustrated that it’s adversity that defines India-Pakistan ties and not flying doves.

“The Pakistan PM should rein in his army as the ISI, which works under the army, works against us. Such army chiefs (referring to Gen Bajwa) should understand that we have a bigger army than they have, and we are fully prepared. There is a limit… If you do it (provoke) repeatedly, then India will also have to think,” he warned.

If that doesn’t explain the futility of the proposed passage as a peace measure, what else will? For now, sadly, it just appears to be a one-day television entertainment crafted strategically by state powers in India and Pakistan over something as spiritually sublime as Kartarpur.

Also Read: Kartarpur Corridor: Amid high drama, security concerns, what the project can mean for India


Harmeet Shah Singh Harmeet Shah Singh @harmeetss

The writer is Editor with India Today TV.

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