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Passport Requirement Confuses Pilgrims as Kartarpur Corridor Gets Ready to Welcome Devotees

While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had said pilgrims coming from India would not need passports to travel via the corridor, the Pakistan Army had contradicted his statement — leading to much confusion.

Arunima | CNN-News18Arunima24

Updated:November 9, 2019, 11:23 PM IST
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Passport Requirement Confuses Pilgrims as Kartarpur Corridor Gets Ready to Welcome Devotees
Sikh pilgrims at the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev, at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi: On the inaugural day of the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor between India and Pakistan on Saturday, a 562-strong Indian 'jatha' offered prayers at Darbar Saheb Kartarpur, but for common citizens it is confusion galore as to who is eligible for 'darshan' via the corridor.

Sukhwinder Kaur, a sarpanch from a Jalandhar village in Punjab, led a group of 10 women for 'darshan' via the corridor. None of them had passports and they all believed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had waived off the requirement of a passport, so they could travel with their Aadhaar cards as identity proof. The group had camped in the open, rain-soaked ground of Batala, 6 km from the border, hoping they would be allowed to go.

"We read in the paper that Aadhaar can be an identification document. We don't have passports. Can't poor people with no passports go via the corridor for 'darshan'?" asked Sukhwinder. Two old women in her group have fallen sick but refuse to budge.

While Khan had said pilgrims coming from India would not need passports to travel via the corridor, the Pakistan Army had contradicted his statement — leading to much confusion.

Across the patch of mud where Sukhwinder and her group had camped stood Arjan Singh, a retired Railways employee from Amritsar. Arjan and his friends all claim that Aadhaar is good enough as identity for travel via the Kartarpur corridor. "We saw on television that Imran Khan had waived off passports, that is why we came with our Aadhaar card," he said.

The same story unfolded every few steps. A group of Sikhs from Rajasthan, locals from Bhatinda — all believed that Khan's earlier tweet waiving off passport requirement meant they could go with their Aadhaar, driving licence or voter I-card.

S Gandhi, another devotee, misunderstood the part of the eligibility form saying devotees could form groups of up to 15 for travel via the corridor. Gandhi and his family of two daughters and his sister had come all the way from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. He had applied on the Prakashpurb website and hoped his authorisation would allow him to take up to 15 people along. Much to the dismay of the rest of his family, Gandhi had to leave them behind at Batala and proceed down the corridor alone.

Most of the devotees credit Congress leader Navjot Singh Siddhu for the corridor.

"If it was not for Sidhu and Imran's friendship, this wouldn't have happened," said Harpal Singh from Shimla. The 64-year-old shopkeeper claims he is the only one from Himachal Pradesh who got the chance to travel with the 'jatha'.

The corridor will open for common pilgrims on Sunday. At least 5,000 people are expected on Sunday and double that number of November 12 — the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. The 'jatha' members who visited the Data Saheb Shrine on Saturday came back impressed with the arrangements on the Pakistani side.

Retired army official Lieutenant General Shergill was the first to return. "It was a momentous occasion. I am a retired Armyman. I looked around but found no Bhindranwale or referendum 20-20 poster," he said.

Shergill was referring to photographs of Khalistani Separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale that had appeared in an official video on the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor. India had raised objections to the video through diplomatic channels.

Berger Paints owner Jagdeep Singh said, "People are so overwhelmed by the moment that they are just sitting at the gurdwara, refusing to come back. They just want to soak in the vibes of Baba Nanak."

As per stipulations of the Indian government, devotees will have to return via the corridor on the same day. The rules allow pilgrims to carry Rs 11,000 in cash and a bag weighing up to 7kg. While the devotees are allowed to carry their smartphones, cameras are not allowed.

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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