'If Modi Govt Really Respects Sikhs, it Should First Repeal Farm Laws': Farmers on Kartarpur Move

Among rival politicians, however, there has been a scramble to prove that it was their respective efforts that led to the reopening of the corridor.

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Jalandhar: Union home minister Amit Shah may have reflected at length on Narendra Modi’s respect for the Sikh community while announcing the reopening of the Kartarpur corridor, but farmers unions’ appear unconvinced and have said that if the government really reveres Guru Nanak and his followers, then it should repeal the three farm laws.

The Union government’s decision came ahead of the 552nd birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev, who spent the last 18 years of his life at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib situated in Narowal district of Pakistan. The gurdwara is around four kilometres from Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Indian Punjab.

In a tweet, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said: “In a major decision, that will benefit large numbers of Sikh pilgrims, PM Narendra Modi government has decided to re-open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from tomorrow, November 17. This decision reflects the immense reverence of Modi government towards Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and our Sikh community.”

Reacting to the development, BKU Doaba president Manjit Singh Rai termed the move a political stunt.

“First they kept the Kartarpur Sahib corridor closed and then reopened to win over the Sikh community ahead of the assembly elections. But can’t they see that 700 farmers died during the farmers’ protest in one year? Nintey percent of those who died during the protest were Sikhs themselves. If the Modi government really respects Guru Nanak Dev and the Sikh community, they would have rolled back the three farm laws and sent the farmers home on the occasion of the Gurpurab of Guru Nanak Dev,” he said.

Rai said that the Bharatiya Janata Party could try but it will not be able to”gain ground in Punjab”.

“Till the day the three black farm laws are not repealed, we will continue to boycott them,” he added.

Senior Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leader Dr Darshan Pal said that Guru Nanak Dev was a farmer himself.

“Guru Nanak Dev’s teaching was ‘kirat karo, naam japo, vand shako’ (‘work hard, pray and share with the needy’). Sikhs would be happy if the government repealed farm laws. If the government really wants to give something to Punjab, they should repeal the farm laws and send the farmers’ home. People are smart and can make out what the government is doing. Punjab, particularly farmers and that too Sikhs, are not going to fall into this trap,” Pal said.

Also read: What Kartarpur Symbolises, for Guru Nanak, and for Sikhism Today

Bathinda-based farmer Jagseer Singh sought to highlight the irony of the BJP, until now, brazenly terming the farmers, especially the Sikhs as ‘Khalistanis’ and ‘Naxalites’.

“They even said that those protesting are not even farmers. Our brothers and sisters at the Delhi borders are dying every day. From last winter to this one, farmers’ protest is set to complete its first anniversary but the government has never shown that it cares about us,” he said.

Farmers also said that Modi government was oblivious of the fact that farmers were rushing here and there for DAP or the Diammonium phosphate fertiliser ahead of the wheat sowing season.

Farmers stand in a queue to purchase fertilisers, in Mathura, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Photo: PTI

“The Modi government wants the farmers to remain stuck in  theDAP cycle, so that they don’t reach Singhu and Tikri border for the first anniversary of farmers protest on November 26. But come what may, farmers will reach Singhu and Tikri borders in large numbers,” Jagseer added.

In response to farmers’ concerns, BJP Punjab president Ashwani Sharma urged that political questions be avoided.

“Today is a day of happiness. Let us avoid political questions. After coronavirus pandemic, the corridor has reopened. It is a big day for all the followers of Guru Nanak Dev across the world,” Sharma said.

When The Wire asked him again, Sharma asked that when the Supreme Court has put a stay on the three farm laws, what are the farmers protesting for? “It is a fight of two ideologies,” he said.

Farmers The Wire spoke to have also categorically asked why the BJP Punjab delegation that went to meet Prime Minister Modi recently could talk about the Kartarpur corridor but could not take up the farm laws issue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets a delegation of BJP leaders from Punjab, Delhi and J&K, in New Delhi, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. The delegation submitted a memorandum to PM and requested to reopen Kartarpur Corridor. Photo: PTI

On this, the BJP Punjab president said, “Government’s vision is clear and they have never run away from table talks. But the way some people have been indulging in violence, gherao of leaders…it is not done. We are a democracy and everybody has the right to protest but violence in the name of protest cannot be allowed.”

He then added, “If farmers are sitting on the roads, can we be comfortable? We are far more sensitive than them. We are hopeful that something will materialise.”

But BJP Punjab’s party office in Chandigarh was abuzz with celebrations. Party leaders were seen tweeting and thanking Modi and Shah on the development.

A progressive farmer from Hoshiarpur district, Gurwinder Sanghera, is unconvinced that the ploy will work.

“BJP is doing all this for the vote bank. They can’t convince the farmers with such decisions. The harsh reality is that nobody in Punjab wants to even talk about BJP. I faced 200 quintal losses in paddy crop from 10 acres of land this year but that didn’t deter my spirit. Like me, many farmers are committed to the farmers’ protest,” Sanghera said.

Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa said that if the government does something truly good, then farmers will appreciate it. “But I think that behind the reopening of the corridor lies a political motive of the Modi government. BJP, which is on an extreme low in Punjab, is trying to gain votes. If Modi government really respects Sikh Guru and the Sikh community, then they should immediately repeal the three farm laws and make a law on MSP. PM Modi should show large heartedness and support the genuine demands of farmers and send us home happy,” he said.

Scramble among politicians to take credit

Thanking Modi and Shah for the corridor decision, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi tweeted that Punjab Cabinet would pay obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who resumed charge as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president on Tuesday after having quit the post in September also said the reopening of the corridor was an invaluable gift for the followers of Guru Nanak Dev. In another tweet, Sidhu also demanded the rollback of the three farm laws on Guru Nanak Dev’s Gurpurab.

Following the decision, a war to take credit for the move has also begun among the leaders. Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh claimed that the corridor reopened because of his appeal to the Union government whereas Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee president Bibi Jagir Kaur said that that she wrote several letters to the Union government to reopen the corridor.

Bibi Jagir Kaur also said that she would lead a special delegation of SGPC to Kartarpur Sahib on November 19 and celebrate the the Gurpurab at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal also claimed that his efforts to reopen the corridor that proved a “success.” AAP’s Punjab co-incharge  Raghav Chadha said that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has included the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor pass in his Teerath Sathan Yatra.

AAP’s Kisan wing president and MLA Kultar Singh Sandhawan asked for “the almighty to bestow wisdom on the Modi government to repeal the farm laws.”

ikh pilgrims collect their passports from Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials on the eve of travelling to Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, in Amritsar, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Photo: PTI

Corridor registration not open yet, devotees stuck

Meanwhile, although the Union government has announced the reopening of the corridor, the online registration at the official portal is yet to begin, leaving devotees in limbo.

The message on the portal reads that in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, as a precautionary measure to contain and control the spread of the disease, the travel and registration for Sri Kartarpur Sahib is temporarily suspended from March 16, 2020.

Talking to The Wire, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said, “The Sri Kartarpur Sahib portal is not open yet. We have contacted the Ministry of Home Affairs and asked them to reopen the portal. The MHA has given us the permission to take 150 people to Kartarpur Sahib. They also asked us to email the list of people who would be going to Kartarpur Sahib by noon. As for a public visit, the standard time frame of around 10 days would apply and a passport is a must to visit Kartarpur Sahib.”

A devotee Satvir Kaur, who was eagerly waiting to pay obeisance said that since yesterday night, she and her family found that the portal was not functional yet.