B L Saraf
May be, by design or the stroke of providence two significant events marked the day. November 9th, 2019 will, truly, go down in the Sub-continents’ history as a day to be remembered for times to come: for the reason that the day has dispersed three decades old clouds of communal gloom hovering over the country’s sky and brought in a glow of positivity that brightens the horizon . It portends well for the country as it holds out an reassurance that the civic and constitutional rights of the citizenry will be respected and honored. This is how PM Narendra Modi and a number of well meaning observers have described the day. 9th Nov has witnessed a couple of epochal developments that should define not only the inter -community harmony, within the country, but also exert a benign influence on the inter sub -continental relations.
The day began with a reassuring and a harmonizing – some would call a historic – verdict delivered by the Apex Court of the country putting a closure for a centuries old Ram Janam Bhumi dispute that had vertically fractured two major communities and polarized Indian politics deep down . The Apex Court, in a unanimous decision of its five judges, has invoked relevant provisions of the constitution to harmonise community claims. Next, the Indo -Pak sub-continent saw a heartwarming spiritual event that marked the 550TH Birthday celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev Saheb . Prime Minister inaugurated the Integrated Check Post on the Indo-Pak border and flagged off the first batch of pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Saheb, Kartarpur, in Punjab ( Pakistan). Pak PM Imran Khan received them on his side. The Kartarpur corridor will ensure hassle free pilgrimage of the Indian citizens to Darbar Saheb – the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev Saheb.
The Prime Minister Modi had both the historical events of the day in mind when he addressed the nation, in the evening .In a televised address to the nation he highlighted the date -Nov 9 – and noted that on this date, 30 years back Berlin Wall had been brought down and on this date Kartarpur corridor was opened with Pakistan. PM compared this event as bringing down of Berlin Wall . Modi said “November 9 was the day when Berlin Wall fell in Germany. It lead to the merger of two different ideologies. On November 9- today, the Kartarpur Saheb corridor was opened which marked an understanding between India and Pakistan. Then turning to the Supreme Court verdict given in the forenoon, PM said that it had taken so long to settle the Ayodhya dispute which has affected many generations. He went on to say “The verdict of Supreme Court gives the lesson to move forward on the path of progress. It was a day to forget the lingering bitterness.”
The Supreme Court has laid down a path that should lead to the communal harmony and peace in the country. The opening of Kartarpur corridor has a lesson for both the countries. If the lesson is learnt and replicated elsewhere it would provide a meaningful way out for an everlasting peace in the sub -continent. The event has proved that matters of faith can override issues of mutual discard and dislodge politics of acrimony. In the background of what happened in Pulwama, in February, Balakote Pakistan and the situation that has emerged out in the aftermath of dilution of Article 370 and abolition of Article 35 A, Indo-Pak relations dipped to the lowest ebb. Imran Khan’s belligerent speech made in UN General Assembly added fuel to the fire and added more bitterness to the relations .In such a situation it was unthinkable that PM Modi would, so soon, have a word of praise for the Pak PM, on completion of Pakistan part of the corridor and draw an analogy to relate the corridor to Kartarpur to the of fall of Berlin Wall and vouch for reconciliation between the two countries .
PM Narendra Modi did it on the occasion of opening of Kartarpur corridor . He extended his outreach to Pakistan PM and the people of that country when he publiclly thanked Imran Khan Niazi for rendering a helping hand to see the corridor becomes a reality in a good time. Modi also acknowledged the good work done by the Pakistani workers who made the corridor path worthy in a short time . In the prevailing situation Modi’s statement has a statesman’s flavor. Because it comes at a time when for the top political executives of India and Pakistan it is highly unfashionable even to have an eye ball contact. Remember, the corridor has come when the earlier existing means of physical contact, like Samjhota Express and Delhi -Lahore Bus Servive are on hold . Indeed, a ” push of the faith ” has done it.
We have been arguing for a long that a regular and uninterrupted people to people contact between the two countries is the best way to settle contentious issues that bedevil the Indo-Pak relations . Mutual contact helps to break the stereotypes . Shaarda Peath, situated in POK’s Neelam Valley, is other revered Shrine – a great symbol of faith and learning of the Kashmiri Hindus and Buddhist which could attract lakhs of devotees from India and elsewhere and generate a “push of faith ” as strong as the Kartarpur Darbar Saheb Gurdhwara has done for the Sikh pilgrims .
There are hundreds of religious places in both the countries that have a spiritual attraction for the people living across the borders. If we respect this “push of the faith ” and allow free flow of people to each country’s religious places we can surely replicate the Sutanpur Lodhi- Kartarpur spirit, which would provide a way to come out of the imbroglio.
Kashmir may also benefit. One of the reasons given by the GOI to place curbs on the political leaders in Kashmir and disrupt the Internet connectivity is to thwart Pakistan from playing a mischief. Better relations with Pakistan and communal peace within the country would, to some extent, help sorting out the problem. November the 9th has opened up both the possibilities. Just for that the day may be remembered for a long time.
However, given the underlying faultlines it is a risky business to predict peace in the sub-continent. So what has been stated here may appear a wishful thinking. But then there is no premium on a wish for the peace .
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf