KARTARPUR SAHIB CORRIDOR
DGP Gupta’s Statement Reeks Of Bias Against The Sikh Community
- AMANDEEP SANDHU
DGP Gupta’s Statement Reeks Of Bias Against The Sikh Community




The statement comes just when the UN Secretary-General called Kartarpur ‘a corridor of hope’.

It is very unfortunate and damaging that the Panjab DGP Dinkar Gupta has issued a statement carried by The Indian Express, Chandigarh, February 22 and printed as such in broadsheet.

In the evening, the story was updated, headline was changed,to say a much tamer: 'Kartarpur Corridor a security challenge.'

When I saw this headline last morning, I did not easily believe it. These days one has to be very careful with news so I averred the statement could be media mischief. After all I reasoned, unlike fast and furious world of social media, a person holding such a responsible position could not casually demonize the Sikhs once again.

I checked the news. The head of Panjab Police has indeed made this statement and gone on to justify it. For those uninitiated, there is a context here. 

We are familiar with the famous hug between Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Pakistan General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing in of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in August 2018. We are familiar with how the Indian media howled ‘conspiracy, terrorism’ when Pakistan mooted the 4 kilometre corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian territory to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan territory. The chief minister of Panjab, Captain Amarinder Singh had also joined the naysayer chorus. 

Kartarpur Sahib is Guru Nanak's final karam bhoomi where he practised natural farming for 17 years and his final resting place. The opening of the corridor has huge spiritual and emotional resonance for the Sikhs, the Nanakpanthis, and anyone who believes in the life and teachings of Guru Nanak. Last year in November, in the 550th year of Guru Nanak, the naysayers were finally silenced and the India and Pakistan inaugurated the corridor. 

Until January 31st, in three months, the total number of pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib stand at 44,951 people.One of the chief reasons is that the governments mandate that only passport holders can travel. Per latest data only about 6% of Indian citizens have a passport. There is also a rule that one can only apply through the Internet. There is a waiting and vetting period of 15 days. The application comes to the local police station and intelligence agencies have to approve.
That is why, unlike how pilgrims in Panjab travel to local important Gurdwaras – from villages in tractor trollies, packed in chotta hathi (a small truck), and on personal vehicles - the numbers of who can apply for the Kartarpur Sahib visit is really small. That is why both India and Pakistan governments are currently mulling that the condition mandating a passport be waived.Gupta's deeply problematic statement nullifies this proposal.

The statement comes at a time when five days back the UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated in a tweet: ‘I was honoured to visit Pakistan’s newly opened Kartarpur Corridor - a corridor of hope, connecting two key Sikh pilgrimage sites. This is a welcome symbol of interfaith harmony.’

We need to note here that Captain Amarinder appointed the 1987 batch IPS officer Gupta by superseding five senior officers. Those officers are right now in the court against Gupta. Just a few weeks back the Punjab and Haryana high court stayed the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order that quashed the appointment of Dinkar Gupta as the Panjab police chief. The hearings in that case are on and it is at this time Gupta has chosen to raise the bogey of security and vilification of the Sikh community.

Gupta harks back to the times – 1980s and 1990s - when the Indian state viewed all Sikhs as traitors and terrorists. In the context of the Hindutva agenda of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra, considering that the original vilification of Sikhs was a Congress agenda, Gupta deals a severe blow to the perception of Sikhs. By doing so, he is joining the voice of Delhi-based Hindutva naysayers of the corridor.
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This is a very reductive and a very shameful statement by a man tasked to maintain law and order in Panjab. It is damaging not only for the Sikh community and the believers in Guru Nanak but also to the prospects of peace in South Asia which is where the Kartarpur Corridor holds up a shining beacon. 

Last evening, there was a rushed clarification from the Information and Public Relations Department of the government of Panjab. Yet, even there the emphasis is on vigilance and the familiar attribution to media of misquoting DGP Gupta. 

I believe, Gupta’s taking back the statement or regretting making the statement won't serve any purpose.Gupta’s bias remains and shows how the Sikh aspirations remain an expendable quantity in the national discourse and are abused in the fight for the DGP’s chair in Panjab.

Amandeep Sandhu is the author of Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines
 
 

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