T.Sher Singh addressing Governor Sarwar and his staff at the meeting in Toronto, Canada
April 17, 2019. Toronto, Canada – A Sikh delegation representing the American Sikh Council (ASC) met with Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar of Punjab, Pakistan and his staff to share their concerns over the destruction of the Sikh heritage due to new construction over the fields and forests at Kartarpur Sahib, associated with Baba Guru Nanak and seek his intervention.
Gurmeet Kaur, a U.S. based community activist lead the ASC’s heritage committee and presented its concerns and requests to the Pakistan Government regarding Kartarpur Sahib in particular and the Sikh heritage in general.
Gurmeet Kaur started with discussing the currently proposed plans to cater to an onslaught of expected visitors and how it would destroy the 500 years old heritage by doing an irreversible damage to the sacred fields of Baba Nanak where he farmed with his own two hands for 18 long years. “Constructing on this acreage destroys the sanctity, the spirit of the sacred site and any chances of archeological revival of the lost heritage associated with Baba Nanak,” she stated.
She then mentioned of the voices against this destruction and how they have been trying to reach out to the Pakistan Government at all levels from the Prime Minister to the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) via written correspondence, personal meetings with the Pakistan Embassy, High Commission and via press for four months. She mentioned that this campaign has a backing of over 17,000 petitioners worldwide, the ASC representing 74 gurdwaras in the USA, the Global Sikh Council (GSC), the Supreme Sikh Council of Australia, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu (Minister – East Punjab), other organizations and individuals including the Pakistan PTI MPA Momina Waheed.
S.Gurmeet Kaur with S.T.Sher Singh while Governor Sarwar goes through the petition
Ripsodak Singh the Principal of the Khalsa Community School said, “We are asking that Kartarpur be setup as an ecological heritage village of Baba Nanak and all new construction be done at least a kilometer away from current Gurdwara, outside of Baba Ji’s fields and align with the Guru period architecture and not be in the form of modern, unsightly hotels and shopping malls that destroy the spirit of the space.”
Gurmeet Kaur stated, “Despite our untiring efforts, we have no formal acknowledgement that our concerns are taken into consideration, no access or say in the current construction plans, no voice in the status and saving of 200+ other Sikh heritage sites that may be disturbed in the name of religious tourism — the very tourism that you are counting on us – the Diaspora Sikhs!”
She showed evidence of two historic Gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib that were recently demolished to the ground in the name of beautification and expansion and raised concerns that several others would go through the same fate if they were not protected as national heritage sites.
Harpreet Kaur, an educator and an activist made everyone emotional, pointing to her two year old son and declaring that she would love to bring him to Kartarpur only to touch and feel the soil of Baba Ji if his fields were preserved and the nature which he revers in Gurbani was honored and not to touch their forehead to the marble slabs that covered our real heritage.
Sher Singh a renowned Sikh writer concluded the delegation’s concerns by saying that the onus of preserving the Sikh heritage in Pakistan was on the Pakistan government. He said that this heritage is an asset to Pakistan and by utilizing foresightedness and keen judgement they may make Sikhs who already love this land, their friends forever.
S.Gurmeet Kaur giving the presentation on preserving Kartarpur Sahib to the Governor and his aides
Harpreet Singh, Principal of the Khalsa Montessori School brought a folder full of letters of heartfelt appeals by children from his school to share with the Governor in which they had pleaded the Prime Minister to save the heritage fields of Baba Nanak for the future generations.
The Governor said that he shared the concerns but since he was brought in very late to preside over the work in Kartarpur, was unable to alter the plans in progress and would have to approach the Prime Minister in this matter. On reminding that the Prime Minister has forwarded their correspondence to the Governor, he said he will arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister immediately upon his return. The ASC delegation thanked the Governor and hopes he keeps his promise.
Photo credits: Mohsin Abbas