As Pakistan and India discuss the alignment of the Kartarpur Corridor, some 600 villagers who are facing “forcible eviction” due to the project say they will block the development work if denied compensation of their land on commercial rates.
The entire population (600) of village Kothay Khurd, where Gurdwara Dera Sahib Kartarpur is located (some 125-km from Lahore), has been ordered by the district administration to vacate their houses immediately for the development of the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims from India.
“My ancestors had settled in the village even before the partition and now our fifth generation is living here. Some officials came here and told the residents that the government was planning to build Kartarpur Corridor on our land, therefore we will have to vacate the land,” Mohammad Arshad of Kothay Khurd told reporters.
“We are living in the area for centuries and it was not possible for us to leave the area and the graves of our ancestors,” another villager Zaeem Hussain said, adding that the government officials had only told them that they would be compensated after their land and houses had been acquired.
Hussain said there has been consensus among the villagers to sacrifice their agricultural land but none of them is ready to leave their ancestral houses.
He said the villagers will protest and not let the government develop the corridor if it forcibly evicted them from their houses. “We want compensation of our land on commercial rates,” he demanded.
The Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee has demanded immediate compensation for farmers on commercial rates. It said no ordinary compensation would be accepted and the affected families be given one job each.
Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar says the government is acquiring the land under Section 4 of the Punjab Land Acquisition Act 1894 and it will pay compensation for the crop and land. He denied that the government was forcefully evicting the villagers.
“We are trying to resolve the matter peacefully,” he added.
Evacuee Trust Property Board spokesman Asif Hashmi said that almost 40 per cent of the development work on the Kartarpur corridor has been completed.
“The development work on the corridor is underway and will be completed well ahead of this November to observe the 550 birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak,” Hashmi said.
Experts from India and Pakistan on Tuesday held a meeting to discuss the alignment of the Kartarpur border-crossing corridor project. Both sides jointly surveyed the coordinates of the zero point and discussed technical aspects including finished road level, high flood level, etc.
Zero point is the point at which the Indian side of the corridor and the Pakistani side of the corridor will be meeting.
The two sides agreed on some technical aspects and hope to finalise other modalities soon. The next meeting is to be held at Wagah on April 2.
The meeting had come amid heightened tensions between the two neighbours following India’s air strike on a terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Pakistan’s subsequent retaliation.
Last November, India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district. Two days later, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal.