Two Sikh holy places to be linked tomorrow
Amritsar, Mar 23: Ever since the partition, the Sikhs have been praying to the almighty to grant them ''Gurdhama de darshan didar, jina to panth nu vichoriya giya hai (grant easy access to shrines from which the Sikhs have been separated or denied obeisance)''.
Amongst these shrines is gurdwara Janam Asthan at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan where the first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev was born.
This prayer of the Sikhs will finally be answered tomorrow when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh flags off the 45-seater luxury Volvo coach to link the city of the Golden Temple to the birthplace of Guru Nanak. This linkage will facilitate the pilgrims of both countries to visit these two important religious places on both sides of the border.
Dr Singh will flag off the Volvo coach hired by the Punjab Roadways from the Ranjit Avenue locality where he will be addressing a public rally. The bus with 45 passengers comprising Punjab government officials and mediamen will then proceed to Pakistan via the Wagah check post to establish the fourth road link between India and Pakistan after the Delhi-Lahore, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Amritsar-Lahore link.
For the second time, Dr Singh will be flagging off a bus to Pakistan. In April last year, he had flagged off the bus to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) from Srinagar to set up the second road link to the neighbouring country.
The link will grant easy access to Indian Sikhs to the holy town of Nankana Sahib, the 'janam asthan' (birth place) of Guru Nanak which is a mere 160 km from this holy city. Nankana Sahib is perhaps the most important place of pilgrimage in Pakistan for Sikhs along with Panja Sahib and Dera Sahib in Lahore.
Access to these religious places had never been easy for the Sikh families residing in India. The only occasion they got to pay obeisance at Nankana Sahib and other religious places in Pakistan was with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) 'jathas' on the occasion of 'Baisakhi', the birth anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak that falls in November.
The flagging off of the Nankana Sahib bus was delayed by a month after the Pakistan authorities requested the Indian government to postpone the inaugural run scheduled on February 24. Like the Lahore-Amritsar bus, the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus will run twice a week. While Pakistan will run a 45-seater luxury coach belonging to the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, India will run an ultra-luxury Volvo coach hired by Punjab Roadways from Libra Bus Transport Company on Fridays and Saturdays.
The 160 km distance between the two holy places will be covered in about five hours including the time taken for immigration and customs clearance on both sides of the Wagah check post. The cost of the journey cost is Rs 1100 per passenger in Indian currency and Rs 1250 per passenger in Pakistan currency.
Like the Lahore-Amritsar bus, the coach to Nankana Sahib will commence its journey from the renovated Youth Hostel.
At Nankana Sahib the Pakistan authorities have made a temporary arrangement for the halt of the bus after the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) denied PTDC the permission to terminate or commence the journey of the bus from Gurdwara Janam Asthan (birth place) at Nankana Sahib.
The Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus will bypass Lahore and no one will be allowed to board or get off the bus enroute. Like the other buses operating between the two countries, fool-proof security arrangements have been made for the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service.
On January 20 this year, the third road link with Pakistan was established when the two most important places of undivided Punjab, Lahore and Amritsar, were linked. The road links with Pakistan are a result of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) initiated by the Manmohan Singh government last year.
The first road link after partition was established on February 20, 1999, when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a historic trip to Lahore on board a luxury Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) through the Wagah joint border check post.
Officially, the Lahore-Delhi link was established on March 16, 1999, when a DTC bus rolled into Pakistan through the Wagah check post.
The Lahore-Delhi bus which runs on four days of the week has been running successfully ever since and it continued even during the Kargil conflict. This bus was discontinued on December 31, 2001 after India severed road, rail and air links with Pakistan in the aftermath of the attack on Parliament. It was again restarted on July 11, 2003.