Dawn – India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran Khan

Islamabad Capital Teritority – Pakistan, 12 December 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda.

The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday.

The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015, but not if they are Muslim.

Modi’s government, re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy, says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries.

Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Imran stated that the bill was the latest of Modi’s attempts to promulgate his supremacist agenda, “starting with illegal annexation and continuing siege of IOJK [Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir].

Then stripping 2 million Indian Muslim in Assam of citizenship, setting up internment camps; now the passage of Citizenship Amendment Law; all this accompanied by mob lynchings of Muslims and other minorities in India”.

He warned that bowing down to a “genocidal supremacist agenda”, propagated by Nazi Germany, had once before lead to World War II.

“Modi’s Hindu supremacist agenda, accompanied by threats to Pakistan under a nuclear overhang, will lead to massive bloodshed and far-reaching consequences for the world,” he warned. “As in Nazi Germany, in Modi’s India dissent has been marginalised and the world must step in before it is too late to counter this Hindu supremacist agenda of Modi’s India [that is] threatening bloodshed and war.”

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh “because of religious persecution” before 2015. It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Home Minister Amit Shah said it was not anti-Muslim because it did not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities.

Amnesty India, however, said the legislation legitimised discrimination on the basis of religion and stood in clear violation of the India’s constitution and international human rights law.


Dawn – Resolution in US Congress seeks end to repression in occupied Kashmir

Anwar Iqbal

Washington DC – USA, 08 December 2019. A bipartisan resolution moved in the US Congress urges India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in occupied Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

Resolution 745 was jointly moved on Friday by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, and Congressman Steve Watkins, a Republican. Born in Madras (Chennai). Ms Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the US House of Representatives. She is also a prominent human rights activist. Mr Watkins is a veteran of the Afghan war and conducted combat along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The movers resolve that the House recognises the dire security challenges India faces in Jammu and Kashmir, including “cross-border terrorism,” but rejects arbitrary detention, use of excessive force against civilians, and suppression of peaceful expression of dissent as proportional responses to security challenges.

The resolution urges India to ensure that any actions taken in pursuit of legitimate security priorities respect the human rights of all people and adhere to international human rights law.

It also urges India to lift the remaining restrictions on communication and to restore internet access across the occupied valley as swiftly as possible.

The Indian government has been urged to refrain from the use of threats and excessive force against detained people and peaceful protesters and release detained people.

It urges the Indian government to refrain from conditioning the release of detained people on their willingness to sign bonds prohibiting any political activities and speeches.

New Delhi has been urged to allow international human rights observers and journalists to access the occupied valley and operate freely throughout India, without threats; and condemn, at the highest levels, all religiously motivated violence, including violence targeting religious minorities.

The resolution reminds India that international human rights law holds that all people have the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to practice, worship, or observe one’s own religion.

The movers note that on 05 August, the Indian government cut all telephone service and internet access in the occupied valley.


Dawn – Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 03 December 2019. A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.

The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.

They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.

Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.

After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.

“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.

National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.

Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.

The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.

NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.


Dawn – 2 ASIs, 3 constables suspended for allegedly killing former councillor Waheed Anjum in Rawalpindi

Tahir Naseer

Rawalpindi – Panjab – Pakistan, 29 November 2019. Two assistant sub-inspectors (ASI) and three constables were suspended on Friday after they were nominated in a case pertaining to the killing of former councillor of Kallar Syedan Waheed Amjad in Rawalpindi, City Police Officer (CPO) Faisal Rana said.

According to a first information report (FIR) filed in the Kallar Syedan police station on the complaint of the victim’s friend on Thursday night, Amjad was stopped by the police at a roundabout while he was driving in the city.

The FIR said that Amjad had stopped his car when an ASI came near it with an SMG rifle and shot at the former councillor several times “with the intent to murder”, according to complainant Habibur Rehman.

Amjad, who was grievously injured by the shooting, was taken to the THQ hospital by the complainant, from where he was sent to DHQ hospital. Upon reaching the DHQ hospital, Amjad succumbed to his injuries.

The FIR nominated ASIs Imran Khalid, Taqdees Akhtar and constables Habib Akhtar, Azhar Mehmood and Atif Shehzad for Amjad’s killing.

CPO Rana said that following the registration of the FIR, ASI Khalid and Constable Habib were arrested by police. All five of the officials have been suspended, he added.

Earlier, Habib had filed a complaint against Amjad in the same police station. According to Habib, Amjad had failed to stop when the police signalled him to and instead hit the constable with his car, after which Taqdees shot at the former councillor.

Following Amjad’s death, residents of the area surrounded the police station and demanded that a case be registered against the suspects.


Dawn – Dutch queen arrives in Pakistan for three-day visit

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 25 November 2019. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a three-day visit in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate (UNSGSA) for Inclusive Finance for Development.

The Dutch queen was received by senior officials of the foreign ministry and representatives of the Embassy of Netherlands at Nur Khan Air Base. Last week, the Foreign Office (FO) announced Queen Maxima’s visit.

In a press release, the FO said that the Dutch queen will call on President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan during her visit, in addition to her engagements with stakeholders from the public and private sectors.
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Queen Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti will also attend the launch of the ‘Micro Payment Gateway’, which the FO described as “an initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan aimed at reducing the costs of small payments and boosting digital transactions to benefit people and promote financial inclusion”.

The statement had added that inclusive finance for development is one of the “key priorities” of the government and the country has taken a number of steps in recent years to promote financial inclusion.

Queen Maxima had visited Pakistan in February 2016 as well.


Dawn – Suspect arrested in Khanewal for murdering man, burning his body ‘in the name of honour’

Sajjad Akbar Shah

Khanewal District – Panjab – Pakistan, 21 November 2019. Police in Jahanian tehsil of Khanewal district on Thursday found the body of a man who was killed and burnt by an individual allegedly in the name of honour, said Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jahanian Shamsuddin.

According to the DSP, the suspect had tortured and murdered the victim, and then burnt his body.

As per the initial investigation, the DSP said the suspect had suspicions of illicit relations between his cousin and the victim. He added that the murder was allegedly carried out in the name of honour.

Shamsuddin said that the victim’s body has been shifted to a hospital while further investigation into the incident is underway.

Meanwhile, Khanewal District Police Officer (DPO) Faisal Shehzad recognised the timely response of DSP Jahanian and his team in arresting the suspect within an hour of receiving information.

According to DPO Shehzad, the police had received information that the burnt body of a man had been found in Jahanian after which the DSP, his Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) and forensic teams responded and cordoned off the site of the incident.

Following this, the forensic team started to collect evidence and began an interrogation with local people in the area during which they received a clue that led to the arrest of the main suspect.

Khanewal DPO said that their investigation was underway in order to determine the motive behind the murder, the weapon used as well as in order to determine who else was involved in the incident.

He added that the suspect had admitted to the crime during the investigation.


Dawn – Sacred thread of the soul

New Delhi – India, 12 November 2019. Sikhs across the world are celebrating Guru Nanak’s 550th anniversary today, and the fervour is enhanced by the opening of a key road between Pakistan and India that leads to his shrine in Kartarpur in Pakistan. Among the non-Sikhs who have revered Nanak are great Muslim poets.

Nazeer Akbarabadi among them (1740-1830) in a paean to the Guru celebrated him for the succour he brought to those who embraced his message of human fellowship before one God. Allama Iqbal saw him as the seer who raised hopes for India’s social enlightenment after the country exiled Buddhism to foreign shores.

Sikhs who have endeared themselves to Nanak’s world of fraternity include excellent men and women. Foremost these days, in my mind, are the gallant men who escorted Kashmiri women from faraway Pune to their homes in besieged Srinagar.

That they did so in the face of a delinquent state underscored the culture that Nanak bequeathed to his followers. Not any less in chivalry were the Sikhs who rushed to give succour and shelter to the communally shunned Rohingya refugees.

In a world overloaded with rites and traditions, Nanak’s followers have spawned a rainbow of eclectic heroes that few other religions can match.

Where there are ardent believers and a surfeit of Good Samaritans in the fold, there are socially committed atheists and communists too. There are affluent entrepreneurs, promptly countered by the best trade union leaders and even more militant Sikh peasants.

Let’s put it this way. There would no Bhagat Singh without the message of fellowship and human bonding he imbibed from the saint-preacher from the late 15th century.

Bhagat Singh who was hanged at the tender age of 23 wore the turban given by his religion but took it off without offending his community when he needed to disguise himself from his British pursuers to fight for India’s independence.

He used Marxism to imagine a socially and politically enlightened post-colonial India at peace with itself. One of his last pieces of writings argued his case for dying as an atheist while still being proud of his Sikh heritage.

Sikhs who have endeared themselves to Nanak’s world of fraternity include excellent men and women.

Open the mind’s apertures a little and you would find an utterly brilliant Sikh politician in Canada, one of several, actually. In 2017, the turbaned Jagmeet Singh, now 40, became the first non-white head of a major Canadian party.

His New Democratic Party is as far left as any in a First World country. There are rumours that Singh could become deputy prime minister in Justin Trudeau’s minority government whose numbers he helped slash in general elections two weeks ago.

In any case, it is delightful to hear him switch from fluent English to more fluent French while explaining his stand on issues. They may range from support to gay rights to opposing the expansion of a pipeline that carries oil through Canada’s mountains to its west coast, without first getting cleared by the threatened indigenous people.

Leave alone religion, could any Indian or Pakistani politician take a public stand on sexual orientation of their people or oppose a project because the people feared its adverse impact on environment?

Jagmeet was denied Indian visa for his stand on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs. But he sees himself as following Guru Nanak’s path of asking questions relentlessly, to help people fight inequality and ignorance imposed by Brahminical blind faith and superstition. That this follower of Nanak is a first class leader of a First World country says something of his heritage.

Jagmeet Singh’s unique style of turban helps project a stridently multicultural society he wants Canada to remain. He reminds one of liberal writer Khushwant Singh who opposed religious and caste bigotry in the footsteps of Nanak while remaining a self-confessed atheist. How many religious communities can accept the dichotomy?

Harkishen Singh Surjeet was an archetypal Sikh, sporting a turban and a steel kara while leading the largest communist party in India. The affable sardarji was among the last party leaders to promote the use of Urdu to attract the masses, a practice shunned by his successors to the detriment of their cause.

If Sikh women are at the forefront of the fight for gender rights it is because Guru Nanak was himself an ardent advocate of gender equality.

There is an uplifting song by the mystical minstrel Lalon Fakir in 19th-century Bengal, which seems to have its origin in Nanak’s teachings. Nanak was on the same page as the weaver-poet Kabir and cobbler-thinker Ravidas, who are thought to have been his contemporaries. “We can tell a Brahmin by his thread. How do we recognise his womenfolk?” Lalon wondered mockingly.

The question may have been lifted from a defining moment in Guru Nanak’s life when he was nine years old. His father, a high-caste Hindu, had arranged for the son’s thread ceremony but Nanak took the issue to his elder sister Nanaki who he loved and looked up to for guidance. He wondered why she never wore the thread. Why was it prescribed for all Hindus but excluded low-caste Shudras?

Nanaki said the question be raised with the Brahmin priest. Nanak was a brilliant student with a deep knowledge of the cultures and religions of his time. He asked the priest to explain the basis for excluding Muslims, many of whom were his friends, and Shudras and women from the thread ceremony. The priest said it was so prescribed by religious texts.

It naturally didn’t wash with the young boy, and after a long and absorbing discussion with the priest he found support from the guests who were listening in. The ritual abandoned, Nanak summed up his thoughts thus: “Make compassion the cotton, contentment the thread, modesty the knot and truth the twist. This is the sacred thread of the soul; if you have it, then go ahead and put it on me.”

Jawed Naqvi is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.



Dawn – Article 370 gone and Ram Temple on the way: What does Modi’s New India look like?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

Scroll.in – 10 November 2019. When the year began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announcing, introducing and passing a Constitutional Amendment introducing a 10 per cent quota for the upper-caste poor, we should have known this would have been a year in which just about anything could happen.

The massive mandate Modi’s government was given in the Lok Sabha polls in May only cemented this impression.

And so, this weekend, following a landmark Supreme Court verdict, it became clear that Ayodhya is going to get a Ram Temple on the spot where an organised Hindutva mob in 1992 demolished a 16th-century mosque, known as the Babri Masjid, sparking riots around the country.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this case, here’s an extremely basic recap: For over a century, Hindus and Muslims have clashed over this spot in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stands, with the Hindus claiming it is the birthplace of Ram, one of the avatars of Vishnu.

In 1949, Hindutva organisations conspired to place a Ram idol in the mosque, effectively turning it into a makeshift Hindu temple and leading to a court case over who owns the land.

Then in the 1980s, the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, used a nationwide campaign for the building of a Ram temple on the spot as a means of whipping up passions (and sparking off violence), culminating in mass-scale vandalism that demolished the mosque on December 6, 1992.

Since then the case had been in court, although it has always been politically volatile, with the BJP promising a Ram temple.

Many faultlines about Indian politics and society were exposed by the case, from the tremendous emotive power of Hindu nationalism to the difficulty other political parties have had in defending secularism, from India’s insistence on turning back to disputes from centuries ago to the growing marginalisation of Muslims.

This reading list should get you caught up on the background

On Saturday, the Supreme Court sat on the weekend to pronounce its decision in the case, after a record 40 days of arguments and two abortive attempts at mediation.

The short version of the verdict: The land goes to the Hindus, and the government has to set up a trust that will oversee all activities on it, including the construction of a temple. To make up for the mosque demolition, the Muslim parties will get another plot of land, double the size, but somewhere else, to be decided by the (BJP-run) state government.

The political implications are myriad, some of which Shoaib Daniyal has collected here.

Here’s my thread on Scroll.in’s coverage of the judgment and The Weekend Fix also collected the most interesting reads from around the web on the subject yesterday.

Even earlier this year, before the elections, there were some people who believed that a Ram temple might not be built in their lifetimes, partly because the promise of one seemed more potent politically than the temple itself.

Yet, things have moved swiftly since then. Modi managed to unilaterally alter the position of Jammu and Kashmir, though until the people of the Valley are free to speak their mind, the fallout of that move remains unclear.

Now, the Supreme Court has cleared the decks for a Ram temple. The question to ask is: What next? Article 370 gone, Ram temple on the way, what could the Modi government have in mind following this?

Its socio-cultural agenda is, to some extent, clear:

  • A pan-India National Register of Citizens, as Home Minister Amit Shah has been promising for some time now, along with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which combined would essentially mean state-sanctioned harassment of Muslims.
  • A Uniform Civil Code: A long-standing right-wing demand that seeks to abolish the personal law of individual religions, essentially forcing minorities to follow the laws of the majority.
  • An anti-conversion law: Another old demand, in place in a few states, that ties into the Hindu Right’s belief that poor Indians are often converted to Christianity through “bribes”.

In many of these cases, the question is not if but when. Will the BJP find it useful to push everything now, in the hopes that it can blunt the impact of what appears to be a severe slowdown?

Or will it hold on to some of these moves, so that they can be used as selling points ahead of major state elections, or even the Lok Sabha polls in 2024?

So much has been accomplished by the Hindutva forces in the last 10 months that it is hard to predict what comes next. But what is clear is that, despite setbacks at the state-level and an economic slowdown, on the national stage, the BJP’s flag is flying high and for now it can attempt to accomplish just about anything.

This article was originally published in Scroll.In and has been reproduced with permission.
Illustration: Nithya Subramanian


Dawn – Foreign Office regrets India’s refusal to avail concessions for Sikh pilgrims

Baqir Sajjad Syed

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 08 November 2019. The Foreign Office on Thursday regretted that the Indian government had decided against availing “concessions” announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan for Sikh pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurdwara on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak.

“As a special gesture, Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been refused by India in blatant disregard of Sikh sentiments,” FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal tweeted.

“If India does not wish to avail these facilitative measures for pilgrims, it is India’s choice,” he said.

The spokesman’s reaction came after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the visit by Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur Gurdwara via the newly established corridor would be conducted in accordance with the agreed bilateral agreement governing the corridor’s operations.

MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar was quoted by Indian media as saying: “Sometimes they say passport is needed, other times it is not needed. We think there are differences between their Foreign Office and other agencies. We have a memorandum of understanding (MoU), it hasn’t been changed and as per it passport is needed.”

Spokesman says government was working on other initiatives for promoting religious tourism

Dr Faisal, earlier at his weekly media briefing, said that Pakistan government had as a “special gesture” waived off the passport requirement and the 10-day advance intimation for the pilgrims coming to the shrine. Moreover, $20 service charges per pilgrims were also waived off for 09 and 12 November.

The special concessions, which were announced by the prime minister through Twitter, were formally conveyed by the Pakistan government to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and the government of India.

The government is expecting around 10,000 Sikhs to visit the gurdwara on the occasion of the opening of the visa-free corridor on 09 November. These include Sikhs coming from India via the corridor, those coming through Wagah border crossing, and Sikhs living in other parts of the world coming here for the occasion.

In reply to a question relating to visas for Sikhs coming through other routes, the spokesman said: “Our missions abroad are also fully facilitating visa requests from Nanak Naamlevas”.

Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, he said, had been issued a visa and would be warmly welcomed at the opening ceremony. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had first shared the idea of opening Kartarpur Corridor with Mr Sidhu when he last year visited Pakistan for attending PM Imran Khan’s inauguration.

Later, Mr Sidhu also came for the groundbreaking ceremony of the project.

According to Indian media, the invitation card issued by the Pakistan government to Mr Sidhu carries serial number ‘0001’.

Dr Faisal said the government was also working on a number of other initiatives for promoting religious tourism. “Sikhs / Nanak Naamlevas, Hindus and Buddhist Monks have various holy sites in Pakistan and we are trying to tap this potential of religious tourism,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to APP, the FO clarified that the passport waiver for Kartarpur pilgrims would extend up to one year as a special gesture on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Mr Faisal was responding to a question in connection with a statement by the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations in which he termed passport a must requisite for Indian pilgrims using Kartarpur corridor.

“This is the formal position of Foreign Office and the ISPR statement is also in line with it,” he said.

Asked if Pakistan would like to open similar corridors with Kargil and Ladakh to facilitate meeting of families living across the border, he said Pakistan had no objection on opening of more passages, however India’s hesitation in holding discussions on several matters was a major hurdle in that.


Dawn – Comment: Guru Nanak travelled widely but always returned to Kartarpur

Abdul Majid Sheikh

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 07 November 2019. As the world celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, the followers of Baba Guru Nanak flock to Kartarpur. Just how this place came into being and how many times did Guru Nanak return to Kartar­pur is what will be recounted here.

To set things in perspective two sources called janam sakhis as selected by Bhai Gurdas and as recorded in the ‘Miharban’ and the ‘Puratan’ traditions will be tapped into.

According to these sources, a rich official referred to as karori was assigned by the Mughal court to “apprehend” the Guru. As the karori set off to undertake his assignment he was struck by blindness and other ailments.

Just how the Guru assisted him is disputed since the Puratan does not mention it whereas the Miharban calls it a “miracle”.

Puratan janam sakhi details his journeys

Anyhow, the karori set up a small village on his land and named it Kartarpur. To secure the land either it was donated to the Guru or was purchased by one of his rich followers. The fact remains, though, that Kartarpur was founded for, or because of Guru Nanak.

Miharban janam sakhi mentions at the conclusion of Guru Nanak’s “five journeys” that Kartarpur had become his home during his travels and it was established during his journeys.

From Kartarpur Guru Nanak did return to his birth village Talwandi (now called Nankana Sahib) several times to meet his family. But it was Kartarpur he returned to from all his five travels to the world beyond Punjab.

Here I must describe his travels as narrated in different traditions. What’s interesting is that no matter which tradition one reads, they all end at Kartarpur.

In Bhai Gurdas’s Var I, he visited all major pilgrimage centres, including Mount Sumeru in the Pamirs, north-west of Kashmir, somewhere near the Kalash Valley. It holds a special place in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism as these faiths consider it to be “the centre of the earth”.

From Makkah to Lanka

Next, he went to Makkah and Madina with his Muslim devotee Bhai Mardana. Here a legend is often narrated, though not mentioned in any janam sakhi, that Guru Nanak was sleeping with his feet towards the Kaaba when he was admonished by a mullah, to which he said: “Oh mullah, drag my feet towards the direction where Allah does not exist.”

He headed to Baghdad next where his Muslim devotee passed away. There Guru Nanak buried him. Mardana’s grave can still be spotted near the old Baghdad railway station with a plaque on which is inscribed, “Here lies buried Mardana, a friend of the Guru named Nanak, who buried him here.”

On Mardana’s death, Guru Nanak returned to Kartarpur from where he also visited Patna and Multan.

Puratan janam sakhi details the directions in which Guru Nanak travelled. We see him walking towards Lahore, then to Panipat, Delhi, Benares, Nanakmata, Kauru and returning to Talwandi.

From here he travelled to Pakpattan, Goindval and Saidpur, now called Eminabad. Here, he was taken as a slave by the Mughal emperor Babar. After listening to his words it is claimed he was freed with great respect.

He then came to Lahore staying for some time near Miani Sahib Graveyard and then returned to Kartarpur.

The second journey was with Mardana and Saido to Lanka. The third journey was with two other companions Hassu Lohar and Sihan Chhimba to Kashmir.

The fourth journey, mentioned earlier, was to Makkah and the fifth journey was to Peshawar and the Gorakh Nath temples. In this trip, he met Lahina of Khadur, who was to be named Angad and went on to become the second Sikh guru.

Guru Nanak finally returned to Kartarpur and stayed there until his death in AD 1538.

As he neared his end his Muslim, Hindu and Sikh followers wished to perform his last rites according to their faith. He asked them to bring fresh flowers.

As they disputed over his last rites, a chador was placed over him and the flowers. Next morning the flowers were still fresh but his body had disappeared.

At Kartarpur, one can see a grave where the flowers were interred and a samadhi where the flowers were cremated indicating that the spirit of Kartarpur is beyond any religion but of a belief that all human beings, irrespective of gender, faith, race or class, are equal.

That is why Kartarpur Corridor’s opening represents a window for peace between neighbours who for time immemorial have been one.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said right after he took office that if India takes one step, he would follow with two.

Kartarpur represents that very spirit akin to the fresh flowers of Guru Nanak.

Abdul Majid Sheikh recently authored The Probable Origins of Lahore and other Narrations