Punjab Congress President Bajwa moots exchange of Kartarpur shrine territory across border with Pakistan

Batala/Gurdaspur, Apr.24: The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Partap Singh Bajwa today proposed that the sacred Kartarpur Sahib shrine situated across Ravi in Pakistan opposite Dera Baba Nanak of Gurdaspur district should be exchanged with some other Indian territory.

He said for a long time the Sikh devotees had been longing for free access to this shrine where the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, spent last years of his entire life.

Presently, the devotees pay their obeisance to the shrine from this side of the river where a special platform has been erected. He said the devotees had been demanding free access to the shrine via a corridor so that they don’t have to go through visa formalities.

The PPCC chief said he had took up this issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May, 2012 and suggested that this territory be exchanged with some Indian territory which is across Ravi in the same sector.

He said the people living in such pockets were facing a lot of hardships as the only means to connect with the mainland was by boats. This area remains cut off from India during monsoons. Not only that. Even basic facilities were lacking in the absence of a direct connect. He said Dr. Manmohan Singh was not averse to this proposal in principle.

He said there was a precedent for such exchange of territories after partition, and added that the Hussainiwala area across Satluj where the samadhis of martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sujkhdev were located had been transferred to Pakistan. It was only years later in 1962 that this territory was handed over by Pakistan to India.

He pointed recently, a similar decision to exchange certain pockets across Bengal-Bangladesh border had been arrived at but could not be implemented due to opposition from Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee.

He said however, the situation in Punjab was different as everybody was in favour of free access to the Kartarpur Sahib shrine which was located just across the border on the other bank of Ravi. Once the two countries arrived at such a decision, there would not be any hurdle from the state government. River Ravi is the border in this part.

However, Mr. Bajwa said, the jingoistic rhetoric being resorted to by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Narendra Modi, on the issue of relations with the neighbouring countries, might pose the biggest hurdle in case this divisive leader came into power.

He said the people in Punjab in general and the border areas in particular were desirous of peace as in case of war, they suffer the most going by the past experience. Moreover, a dignified relationship with Pakistan could facilitate free trade across border which would provide a big boost to the economy of this land-locked border state which presently was not attracting big ticket investment.

He said such a step would also give a quantum jump to the backward economy of Gurdaspur as the only industrial town of Batalain this district had already turned into a ghost town with several hundred industrial units having been closed down during the last few years due to the apathetic attitude of the Akali Dal-BJP government headed by Mr. Parkash Singh Badal.

He said his opponent from the BJP in the Lok Sabha election, Mr. Vinod Khanna, had been promising people to develop Gurdaspur and Pathankot as a tourist hub without coming up with any concrete proposal. He said here was a concrete proposal which, apart from the aspirations of the devotees, would act as a catalyst to boost the economy of this region.

S. Partap Singh Bajwa was touring villages Wadala Granthian, Tatla, Naushehra Majha singh Batala Kala Nangal, Gaunspur villages and Chandan Nagar Murgi Muhalla, outside Bhandari gate in the Batala assembly segment along with Shri Ashwani sekhri MLA Batala, Manjit Singh President Batala Rural,Buta Singh, Gurbachan Singh Bajwa Gen Secretary Punjab BKU, Sukhwinder Singh Kahlon district President BKU Gurdaspur, Sukhdip Singh Awan, Nishan Singh, Kashmir Singh, Ranjit Singh Ex Sarpanch, Dhanna Singh Ex Sarpanch BhagianManjit Singh Cheema, Sardol Singh Dalla, Dr. Mohan Singh, Gulzar, Nishan Singh,Tita, Satnam Singh, Amarjit Singh Bajwa, Sarbjit longowal, Sukhwinder Singh Thind Dhariwal. By Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)