- Amidst headwinds of intolerance
Two important events took place on Saturday. The first was the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, thus allowing Indian Sikhs for the first time in 72 years to visit one of their holiest shrines in Pakistan through a visa-free corridor. The other was the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict handing over the Babri Mosque premises to the Hindu community for construction of a temple, while directing the Indian government to allot the Muslims land for a mosque in Ayodhya. The first event will be remembered as a landmark in the promotion of interfaith harmony and a step towards regional peace. While the judgment by Indian SC would be used by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as yet another feather in his Hindutva cap, and many will wait to see its impact on intercommunal relations in India with a feeling of trepidation.
While Pakistan had of late developed an unprecedented eagerness for opening the Kartarpur corridor, the BJP government was initially less than enthusiastic about it. However, it soon owned the project due to domestic compulsions while posing that the idea had originally come from its side.
The core teachings of Baba Nanak Dev, like universal brotherhood, equality and sharing have relevance for the contemporary world, particularly South Asia. These teachings are an antidote to the fast spreading wave of intolerance for those having a different colour or belonging to a different race, religion or sect. Pakistan, being a multi-religious country, badly needs interfaith harmony which is necessary to create the sense of being one nation. While opening the corridor is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to create a tolerant and inclusive society as visualised by the Founding Father.
Despite condemnations by numerous countries the BJP government continues to violate basic human rights in the Indian Occupied Kashmir while it persists in targeting religious minorities, dissenting politicians, intellectuals and media houses all over the country. Pakistan has shown its commitment to regional peace by opening the corridor. India needs to reciprocate by lifting multifarious curbs on basic human rights in Kashmir and agree to hold talks with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues.