Pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan will have to undergo a thorough security check upon their return amid concerns that Pakistan might push propaganda material, small weapons or narcotics through them, a senior government official said.
Sikh pilgrims will be allowed to carry kirpan s (dagger), one of the five articles of faith worn by Sikhs, but mobile phones will be a strict no, the official said.
Under the Land Ports Authority of India Act, 2010, the Border Security Force (BSF) is the designated force for guarding the border gates through which pilgrims will cross over to Pakistan.
Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson, External Affairs Ministry, said that after several rounds of discussion with Pakistan, an agreement on all issues except the service fee had been reached. “Pakistan insists on levying a fee of $20 (about ₹1,420) on all pilgrims. We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees, and also because this is a people-to-people initiative. We hope that the agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event,” Mr. Kumar said.
India and Pakistan are building a corridor to connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the Sikh founder on November 12.
A senior government official said that the modalities of the security check were still being discussed and the role of various Departments like Immigration, Customs, Police and BSF will be defined soon.
The first batch of pilgrims are expected to visit the Kartarpur shrine on November 8. The passport will be the valid travel document for the pilgrims, and they will have to return on the same day after visiting the shrine, which is 3.5 km from the border gates.
The BSF will mount high-powered surveillance cameras, metal detectors and other security gadgets at the border gates.
“There is serious apprehension that Pakistan might push Khalistani propaganda material through the pilgrims who visit the shrine. Taking no chances, we will have to subject them to a gruelling check on their return. We will be firm but courteous,” the official said.
India had earlier expressed concern that the corridor could be used by Pakistan to generate “anti-India propaganda” like espousing the Khalistani cause, a separate land for the Sikhs.
In a dossier handed over to Pakistan in July, India had mentioned about 30 such instances in the past four years when Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan were exposed to such propaganda .