Sikh shrines in India and Pakistan – why construction of visa-free Kartarpur corridor is so historic

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© 2017 Pippa Virdee

Read my piece on the Kartarpur corridor in The Conversation

Three kilometres from the Indian border, in the tranquil green plains of the Narowal district of Punjab in Pakistan is an unassuming sacred shrine: Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. It’s the final resting place of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), founder of the Sikh faith.

On the other side of the river Ravi, about a kilometre inside the border in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab in India, is the bustling holy town of Dera Baba Nanak. Here stands Gurdwara Shri Darbar Sahib, associated with the life and family of the same first Sikh guru.

On a clear day, both are visible to each other. But the Radcliffe Line, drawn in August 1947 between Pakistan and India, ensures that travel for the average Indian or Pakistani is impossible across this international border. India’s Sikh community is roughly around 20m people – under 2% of India’s population of over a billion. More than half of them live in the Punjab, India and are cut off from the most significant shrines associated with the founder of their faith, all located in Punjab, Pakistan.

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