Protesting against Pakistan's reported proposal to allow only Sikh pilgrims inside the historic Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said Guru Nanak Dev was a universal guru revered by followers of all religions, especially Hindus.
In a statement issued in Chandigarh, he urged the Centre to take up the issue with the neighbouring nation when the latter sends its draft agreement for regulating entry into its territory through the Kartarpur corridor.
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Noting that Islamabad was well within its rights to set terms and conditions relating to its territorial safety and security, Amarinder Singh said it should take into consideration the fact that the first Sikh guru's ideology is not confined to Sikhs but is emulated by people of all faiths.
"The Sikh ethos prescribes non-discrimination, with even the concept of 'langar' (community kitchen) being casteless service for all," the chief minister said.
A large number of Hindus in India were ardent followers of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism, and it was their cherished dream to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, he said.
"There was for years the tradition of Hindu families converting their eldest sons to Sikhism. The influence of Sikhism in India was so strong that to exclude members of other religions was not something that the Pakistan government should even remotely consider," Amarinder Singh said in the statement issued here.
Citing media reports of the draft agreement being prepared by the Pakistan government on entry through the Kartarpur corridor, he also objected to the condition of number of pilgrims proposed by it.
"It was not correct to limit the number of people to 15 a group. Individual 'yatris' (devotees) should be permitted," he said.
Advocating 'khulle darshan' (free access) for devotees, he said the restriction of 500 Sikh pilgrims per day should also not be there, especially in November 2019, when the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev will be celebrated.
The chief minister also expressed concern at the reported clause making passport imperative for the pilgrims.
"With Punjab's large rural population having no passports, such a move would deprive them of making to the historic pilgrimage," he said.
He urged the governments of India and Pakistan to sit across the table and thrash out all issues to facilitate smooth and hassle-free travel by pilgrims through the corridor before coming to a formal agreement in this regard.
"Such regressive steps as were reportedly being considered by the Pakistan government to control entry through the corridor would negate the positive initiative taken by their government and it was up to the Centre to resolve all such issues amicably so that the pilgrims get the maximum benefit from the historic decision of the two nations," said Amarinder Singh.
The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur -- the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev-- with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.
It will enable Sikh devotees to offer prayers at the historic shrine where Guru Nanak had spent his last 18 years.
(With inputs from PTI)