Tribune News Service
I still recall how amid demand for a corridor to Kartarpur in Pakistan, binoculars were installed on a raised platform by the BSF in 2004, to allow devotees to have darshans of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. Though not actual darshans, clear visibility of the shrine from the Indian side was a solace for the devotees.
Nearly 15 years down the line, the obstacle between the revered shrine and the Indian border is gone, reducing the travel time to just 30 minutes.
We were among the blessed ones who were part of the first jatha that walked through the corridor to pay obeisance at the revered Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on Saturday. An upsurge of emotions was all pervasive.
Even as the immigration check and other related formalities at the Indian side of the ICP were in progress before the walk-through, the divine aura of Guru Nanak was at play as politicians cutting across party lines came together for the memorable journey.
Expressing his feelings, Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari said it was a spiritual journey, nothing political about it. Reminding politicians to work for peace and prosperity on both sides, NRI Gurdeep Singh Randhawa, who came all the way from Germany to be part of the first jatha, said the entire world was closely watching as to how the corridor would help bring peace and economic development on both sides of the border.
Between 10 am and 1 pm, the patience of the jatha members was tested as the immigration staff at the ICP waited for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the corridor and flag off the first Jatha. It was around 2 pm that the gates on the Indian side of the border were opened for the commencement of the spiritual journey.
We walked for a short while through a temporary road, as the bridge over the rivulet is yet to be built on the Pakistani side. Pakistan Rangers on the other side opened their gates for us and welcomed us courteously.
The arrangements on the other side of the border were impressive. Adequate number of golf carts and low-floor buses were pressed into service to drop pilgrims at the immigration terminal, which has 110 counters, as compared to 50 on the Indian side. Some of the devotees preferred to walk up to the immigration terminal, chanting hymns.
Since the entry was free on the inaugural day, it took little time for the authorities to issue entry tickets and complete immigration check.
Playing the perfect host, Pakistan PM Imran Khan travelled up to the immigration terminal on a low-floor bus to welcome the VIP members of the jatha, including former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, Union Ministers Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Kaur Badal, CM Capt Amarinder Singh and MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, besides others.
When we finally entered the pious land of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, there was an upsurge of emotions among the devotees, who were awestruck by the sheer scale of the quality makeover given to the shrine.
Initially built in 1925 at a cost of Rs 1,35,600, donated by the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, it was repaired by the Pakistan Government in 1995, and fully restored in 2004. From four acres, the shrine premises now extends up to 42 acres, having 3.5 lakh sq ft of white marble flooring around the main complex.
Unmindful of Imran Khan and his Cabinet colleagues raising the Kashmir issue at the inaugural function, we were all too immersed in cherishing every moment of our two-and-a-half hour stay at the shrine. Dr Manmohan Singh and Capt Amarinder Singh were seen soaked in the eternal bliss, while Sidhu was literally mobbed by pilgrims, as everyone, including Imran Khan, credited him for the initiative.
The clock struck 5 pm and it was time to return. We definitely did not want to leave the place and wanted some more time to energise ourselves spiritually.
Handshakes and hugs were exchanged with Pakistani Rangers and other officials, as everyone returning home thanked their hosts forone of the most memorable days in their lives.
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