File photo | PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
File photo | PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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For the best part of 2019, despite Pulwama, Balakot and the Kashmir crisis, the idea of the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor between the two Punjabs stayed alive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reinforced the end of conversation with Pakistan after the Pulwama attack, diplomats between the two countries faced off several times, including at the UN, on the removal of Article 370, which gave special status to Kashmir. Islamabad even expelled Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria.

But the idea of crossing the border to pay obeisance at the shrine of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak, could not be denied.

This week, in fact, history is offering not one, but two opportunities for closure, and in both, PM Modi is playing a starring role. After all, Modi understands the power of religious sentiments – whether of Sikhs in Kartarpur or Hindus in Ayodhya.

The first opportunity is a small step in healing the distance between the two Punjabs, via the journey to Kartarpur Sahib.

The second is the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on the other side of the Gangetic Plains – the PM has already cautioned people to accept the verdict in all humility and advised his council of ministers not to make unnecessary comments that could hurt peace.


Also read: Pakistan sends feelers, wants to restore diplomatic ties with India after Kartarpur event


Kartarpur Sahib corridor

On Kartarpur Sahib, Modi has sensed the strength of the Sikh sentiment. In Bangkok last week, where he spoke to the Indian-Thai community (of which a large number are Namdhari Sikhs) on the margins of the ASEAN summit, the PM invited them to come to India and travel across the Kartarpur corridor.

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Perhaps, despite his misgivings, Modi has little option but to own the project. Some of this is political – Punjab is run by that rare political being, a Congress chief minister, and Modi realises that his support of the Sikhs in this deeply emotional moment may endow the BJP and its ally, the Akali Dal, with some goodwill, which could even translate into votes.

Certainly, the Kartarpur Sahib corridor is much more than short-term politics. Modi realises this is truly a historic moment. This is the first time since Partition of India in 1947 that the border between the two Punjabs, apart from the crossing at Wagah-Attari, is being breached in peacetime.

So, the PM will now travel Saturday to Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab, where the historic Ber Sahib Gurudwara is located, on his way to Dera Baba Nanak, the last village near the India-Pakistan border. Here, a passenger terminal has been built to facilitate pilgrims, which he will inaugurate.

The Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara lies about 4 km away on the other side, across the Ravi. On a good day, you can hear the ‘gurbani’ as dusk falls, and the breeze from west to east carries the sound across.

Modi won’t cross the border, unlike his predecessor in the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, did 20 years ago, in 1999, when he went to Lahore and laid the foundation stone of good neighbourliness. It is certainly too soon for Modi to accept reconciliation with Pakistan’s “hybrid” government, where the real power lies with the Army and prime minister Imran Khan is more or less a ‘mukhauta’, a mask.

But by giving in to a truly Punjab-Punjab moment, Modi is, albeit reluctantly, accepting that there are some things even he can’t deny. Punjab’s recent history has been written in blood, with lakhs suffering from the most brutal killing and violence imaginable, and another 1.5 crore forcibly uprooted from their homes on both sides.


Also read: How Kartarpur Corridor talks went on despite India-Pakistan tension, diplomatic roadblocks


Ayodhya verdict

As for Ayodhya, Modi realises he cannot allow history to repeat itself when the verdict in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute is delivered in less than a week from now. He knows that RSS affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were banned for its role in the destruction of the masjid in 1992, and that top BJP leaders such as L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati were charged with criminal conspiracy by a special CBI court.

As Prime Minister, Modi’s reputation as a global leader is at stake. The wave of communal rioting that followed in 1992-93, with riots spreading to Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur, Surat among others, and in which nearly 2,000 people are estimated to have been killed, simply cannot be allowed again.

That’s why RSS leaders are reaching out to Muslim organisations as well as civil society. Flag marches are taking place in Ayodhya and several other sensitive spots. If India emerges unscathed, Modi’s reputation will be consolidated.

From Kartarpur Sahib to Ayodhya, this is certainly an important week for the PM.

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6 Comments Share Your Views

6 COMMENTS

  1. It is Pakistan Army Chief who initiated the Kartarpur corridor project and we have welcomed it. Luckily, despite many serious hiccups, it is on. We hope that Pakistan will not create mischief using this corridor for promoting terrorist Khalistani movement from their soil, in addition to the Kashmir terrorism. As regards Ayodhya judgement, Modi has already clarified that he would wait for the judgement to be delivered and then he would do what is required, Dr. Swamy deserves credit for getting SC to start hearing and finally deliver the judgment now. It is only natural that since this a court judgement, it will be seen as one side winning versus the other side losing. This should not be case and the judgement has to be taken in a mature way and accepted by all, as it is. Any political action required thereafter is a matter of next steps in future. But it is true that both these long pending religious sentiment linked issues are coming to an end during Modi’s time and he deserves credit for it.

  2. Is this from Print, difficult to believe.
    What about Navjot Sidhu – please say something, Good or Bad
    Why have you presumed the outcome of Ayodhya verdict. You are supposed to give a balanced view. What is the decision is against the wishes of masses

    • Jyoti Malhotra is a known pro-BJP. All her articles have pro-Modi touch in them. As for Print, it doesn’t have clear ideology like The Wire. Print gives platform to all shades of opinion makers. So chill.

  3. Man does not live by spirituality alone. The exclusion from RCEP, the gentle reminder from Moody’s that the patient is unwell, must induce a realisation that the promise of two successive mandates is not being redeemed. The fronts on which India should be fighting its wars are all at home – stunting of children, poor education and healthcare. The assembly of policemen and their families in Delhi shows even basic governance is stalling. A great man must think sometimes of his legacy, even when so much electoral politics lies ahead of him. History should record for PM Modi, as it has for PM LKY and Paramount Leader Deng, Inhonne apne desh vasiyon ka naseeb badal diya.

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