Ushering in the week-long celebrations for Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asked followers of Sikhism to visit Kartarpur in Pakistan and said their dream of a 'darshan' at the historic Darbar Sahib will be realised later this week. On Monday, Singh had raised doubts about Pakistan's intention in "suddenly" taking up the 70-year-old demand of the Sikh community to open the Kartarpur corridor that links the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.
"The dream of devotees to take darshan at the historic gurdwara will be fulfilled on November 9 when the prime minister (Narendra Modi) will inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak," said a statement issued by the chief minister's office.
On Monday, Singh had alleged that Pakistan was aiming to drive a wedge in the Sikh community by exploiting religious sentiments. The chief minister will lead an all-party delegation to the Kartarpur Corridor to attend its inauguration on Saturday. Singh ushered in the birth anniversary celebrations of the founder of Sikhism at the historic Sultanpur Lodhi city by performing 'sewa' or service of Guru Granth Sahib, the principal scripture of Sikhism, before the beginning of 'Sehaj Path' prayers.
The celebrations have been jointly organised by the Punjab government and Sikh religious organisations at the famous Sri Guru Nanak Darbar here. The chief minister called upon people to follow the Guru's teachings of tolerance and harmony to counter the challenges of growing religious intolerance in the country. He appealed to devotees to not indulge in the politics or one-upmanship and commemorate the auspicious event in the spirit of universal harmony, as propagated by the Guru.
Describing himself as a "humble Sikh" with a duty to celebrate the momentous event in a befitting manner, the chief minister extended an invitation to all devotes of the Guru to participate in the main function on November 12. To mark the occasion, the state government has undertaken many infrastructure development works in both Sultanpur Lodhi and Dera Baba Nanak to turn these hamlets into modern heritage towns, the statement said.
It announced a new administrative complex and a ring road around the heritage city of Sultanpur Lodhi, to be built at a cost of Rs 150 crore, to enhance its connectivity with other cities. The iconic Quila Sarai, that at present doubles up as the Tehsil administrative office, will be preserved by the state government as a heritage building. Upgradation and widening of roads, besides construction of new bridges and improvement of hospitals, has been undertaken at a cost of Rs 235 crore.
The statement announced that the cleaning and lining of the right bank of the Holy Bein has been completed in the Sultanpur Lodhi section at a cost of Rs 11 crore in partnership with environmentalist Sant Seechewal. The state government has also secured approval from the Centre for its proposal to develop Sultanpur Lodhi as a Heritage Town at a cost of Rs 271 cr on a 50:50 sharing basis, and to set up a Centre for Inter-Faith Studies at GNDU, Amritsar at a cost of Rs 175 crore.
It has also proposed the establishment of a museum named 'Pind Babe Nanak Da' on around 75-80 acres of land at a cost of Rs 300 crore, the statement added. Widening of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Marg from Sultanpur Lodhi to Dera Baba Nanak Road via Beas and Raiyya had been undertaken at a cost of Rs 102 Crore, the chief minister said in the statement. He said that a tented city, spread across 277 acres, for 35,000 people has been erected a cost of Rs 53 crore, with 2,200 temporary toilets and 10 water vending machines, besides 18 parking sites spread over 542 acres to facilitate devotees.
Special trains, including Prakash Purab Express from Delhi to Sultanpur Lodhi, have also being made operational. Punjab had also made efficient arrangements for running of special buses and mini buses as well as e-rickshaws free of cost for the devotees in Sultanpur Lodhi. To mark the historic occasion, the Punjab government has convened a Special Vidhan Sabha Session on Wednesday, to be addressed by Vice-President M Venkiah Naidu and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
The chief minister, along with Cabinet Minister Charnjit Singh Channi, also released four books related with Guru Nanak's philosophy printed by the state's Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. He also inaugurated two exhibitions containing relics, manuscripts and rare books associated with Guru Nanak Dev's life.