A video released by the Pakistani government to welcome Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur shows a poster depicting three Khalistani separatist leaders of the early 1980s in the background, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. The Kartarpur corridor is scheduled to be opened on November 9.
The poster has the message “Khalistan 2020”, apparently a reference to the referendum planned for 2020 on the question of a separate Sikh homeland. Sikhs for Justice, the United States-based separatist group leading the campaign, was banned by India in July.
Separatist leaders Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Major General Shabeg Singh and Amrik Singh Khalsa, who are seen in the poster, were killed during the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star at Amritsar’s Golden Temple in June 1984.
Bhindranwale was the head of the religious sect Damdami Taksal, Shabeg Singh was an Indian Army general who joined the movement in 1984, while Khalsa was a student leader who headed the banned All India Sikh Students Federation.
The four-minute video has a song and clips of Sikh pilgrims visiting several gurdwaras across Pakistan. The Pakistani government released it in three parts on its Twitter account.
‘Pakistan has a hidden agenda,’ says Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he had warned about Pakistan’s “hidden agenda” since the first day, PTI reported.
“Even though the corridor marked the realisation of the long-cherished dream of the entire Sikh community, including me, to pay respects at the historic shrine, India cannot afford to ignore the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] threat that was attached to it,” Singh added.
“On the one hand, they are seemingly showing us compassion and humanity, and on the other, they seem intent on using the corridor to woo the Indian Sikhs to promote the ISI-backed 2020 Khalistan Referendum and creating sleeper cells here.”
The chief minister also criticised Shiromani Akali Dal leaders for allegedly playing into the hands of the ISI with their “politically motivated comments” in the matter. “They cannot see beyond their petty political interests,” Singh said. “If there’s anyone trying to sabotage the corridor, it is the ISI. But instead of targeting the ISI, they persistently attack me.”
Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal and former state minister Bikram Majithia accused Singh of trying to sabotage the corridor.
In November 2018, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had criticised some sections of the media for their portraying the Kartarpur Corridor as a “conspiracy to create Khalistan”. Intelligence agencies have warned that Sikh separatists may use the project to promote their agenda.
Last month, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to operationalise the corridor, which will allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district without a visa. It will be connected to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in India’s Punjab state. Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak is believed to have settled down in Kartarpur after his travels. He was also laid to rest there.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will formally inaugurate the corridor on November 9, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the passenger terminal building at Dera Baba Nanak a day earlier.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.