Monday, April 22, 2024

Disappointing Experience at Kartarpur Gurudwara Visit

Don’t know about Sikh Yatri (pilgrimages) local or foreigner, but if you are a non Sikh plus Pakistani, visiting Kartarpur site can be a humiliating experience for you. Seems like, the authorities have deliberately put restrictive stages of strict checking, re-checking, and question answer quiz, to filter out the non Sikh tourists from entering the site, as much as possible.

During the month of August 2021, we decided to visit the site (we made an attempt before but it was closed due to Covid-19 smart lockdowns), started the journey early in the morning (because it was two and half hour drive from our city), there were four of us in privately owned vehicle. We knew that there would be security checks so we travelled lightly (but were unaware of the level of security check and filters ahead), we reached the destination safely. It was a pleasant journey, the route throughout is full of greenery, the trees, orchards, perennial streams and fields. The glimpses of village life, the shops, houses, warehouses, tractor trolleys, domestic animals and birds all are beautiful.

The moment we left the main road and turned on the road toward the site…

  • There was a police check post on the road, there were two young policemen (new recruits), they asked to stop, they asked questions from the driver, show your ID card, where you come from, where are you going (it was obvious where we were going but they asked anyway). Ok you can go…
  • Then after about 100 meter there was another police check post, there were two older policemen with guns (experienced force), they asked to stop, they asked questions from the driver, show your ID card, where you come from, where are you going, how many people, etc. Ok you can go…
  • After 100 meters there was another check post, this was not regular police, this was Rangers (in camouflage uniform), there were two young soldier with guns, they asked same questions, show your ID card, where you come from, where are you going, how any people, etc. Ok you can go…
  • After 100 meters there was another check post, two older men in camouflage uniform, one with a register & pen in hands, he approached and asked the same questions, identification, where you come from, where are you going, how any people, and asked driver to step out from the vehicle and open the trunk of car for inspection, casually searched the trunk, then he noted down the vehicle number in the register, and asked the driver to drive the vehicle down to an empty field at the side of the road and park it alongside other vehicles of previously arrived tourists, and from there you need to walk…
  • We parked the vehicle, locked it, and started walking toward the path he recommended. There was a soldier in camouflage uniform at the end of the parking area, he asked the males to stop there for checking, separated the females at asked them to go to a nearby tent where the female staff will check them, he thoroughly checked the males and asked questions like, do you have any weapon, knife, metal pin, nail cutter, etc. (females were asked the same questions in the tent, their hand bags were checked, and then released), then he asked to go forward toward a cabin, there was four men in camouflage uniform sitting inside, one of them in front of a small window asked to handover the ID card from our group leader, he noted down the card number, address and asked question, how many people are you in total, how many females, any children or infants, etc. “Ok you can go toward that area where you’ll get the tickets…”
  • About 100 meter head there was an area with a few cabins, seems like made from cargo containers. One of the cabin with three windows and three men sitting inside infront of each window in civilian getup, was providing the tickets, they asked for the ID Card, he noted down the details and issued the tickets @ PKR 200 per person, and pointed toward a direction. Go there…
  • There were two cabins/containers aligned parallel to each other, one for males and one for females to pass through, there were two men in camouflage uniform in one cabin for males, and one female member in uniform in the cabin for females. There was scanning machines, metal detectors and computers installed in each cabin. The females got through comparatively easily. In the cabin for males, they asked to take out everything from the pockets and put inside a plastic basket and asked questions like, do you smoke, eat Naswaar or Paan, have anything edible with you, then they made us go through scanning machine, after that they asked us to ‘hands up in the air’ and made an extra thorough body search (like they do in Guantanamo) even searched under the genital area. After getting released from this stage, there was an electrical escort car waiting outside (like they have in the golf courses), everybody stepped inside and our one kilometer journey ahead stated. The escort car dropped us in front of an array of cabins. We were separated in groups, and each group was instructed to go to a different cabin (apparently this was the last hurdle and after that there was the entrance gate of the Gurudwara).
  • We entered the prescribed cabin, there were two men sitting inside in civilian getup, with computers in front of them with HD cameras, they asked for ID Cards, and checked the details in the computers, took pictures, and asked the question, what profession you belong to, upon satisfied, handed over VISITOR cards and asked to wear these mandatory. – At this stage the real problem started, two of our members didn’t have their ID cards with them at that moment, they were denied from entering. We argued that they are family members, and they should be allowed with our reference. The staff replied in negative “Each & every person must have his/her own ID card otherwise the entry is not allowed”. We further argued that we have passed through eight different security check points and nobody informed us that each and every person must have individual ID cards, but the staff replied, NO, and suggested, those who have been cleared can go inside an visit the site and those who haven’t can stay here and wait but are not allowed to go anywhere from here. We argued a little bit more without any success and finally gave up. We decided to leave here and all go back together, but the staff insisted that those who have been registered in the computer must at least enter the entrance post and then can quickly exist from the exit area. We did exactly, entered from the check post and exited immediately, handing over the VISITOR cards. On return we tried to return the unused tickets at the ticket counter, but the staff refused with the argument that it is your fault not ours that you don’t have ID cards with you. Anyways, we were escorted back by the same escort vehicle, had a long walk to the parking area and left.

It was a waste of time and money, 2.5 hour drive, PKR 800 worth tickets, all those abusive checkings, waste of a whole day, and above all waste of expectations.

A site constructed on Pakistani territory, with Pakistani resources, with our money (14.5 billion Rupee of Pakistani taxpayers’ money), and we were treated like war refugees.

The Sikh Yatris however, coming from Pakistani side have a separate entrance path, straight to the dedicated parking area, right in front of the ticketing area, where they can park, get tickets, board the escort cars and enter the Gurudwara easily.

It will be totally justified and authentic if government disallow and ban all the non-Sikh visitors, because after all it is a Sikh religious site, what others have to do with it, but this will stop the revenue that the government gets from ticketing and propaganda publicity from portrayal of religious harmony & good governance, at the cost of humiliating own citizens and pleasing God know whom.

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Category: Socio Political, Travel

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