New Delhi/Islamabad: Pakistan might open the Sharda Peeth Corridor so that the Hindu community in India can visit it in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Sources in the Pakistan government have said that the Foreign Ministry has submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Imran Khan for consultation to open the Sharda Temple in Pok.
Reacting to the development, sources in the Indian government said that India had made this request several times as part of the Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan and the proposal was made keeping in mind the wishes and the religious sentiments of the people.
Speaking in Parliament in December 2018, Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh had said, "The issue of religious tourism to Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) has been raised from time to time. India has proposed pilgrim’s visit to shrines in PoJK, including Sharda Peeth. Pakistan has not concurred with the proposal so far."
In response to a question by an Indian journalist in 2018 on building a Sharda corridor in PoK, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said, "For Hindu pilgrims, we will make things easy. We will encourage it."
Though the Sharda Peeth Corridor is still a proposal and green signal has officially not been given, the consultation process regarding it is still continuing in Pakistan. Other stakeholders are yet to weigh in especially the all-powerful Pakistani army which has a say in everything the country.
Welcoming the development, Ravinder Pandita of the Save Sharda Committee Kashmir said, "I am elated that in principle accord has been given to reopening of Sharda Peeth in PoK. The seat of learning of Adi Shankaracharya, last occupied by Swami Nand Lal ji, a Kashmiri saint, will come alive again. The yatra will resume after 70 years."
"As head of Save Sharda Committee Kashmir (registered), I thank the establishment of both nations on this historic moment," he added.
Tanveer Ahmed, an independent researcher and public policy activist from PoK, said, "It would be the most significant pro-life measure taken in this region since the end of the British Raj."
Sharda Peeth has been an ancient seat of learning in the Neelam Valley district of PoK and the last time a pilgrimage happened was in 1946. It is also one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peeths. Special No Objection Certificates (NOCs) are required to visit the area which remains in Pakistani occupation since 1947.
The news of Sharda Peeth Corridor comes even as both India and Pakistan are working to open Kartarpur corridor so that pilgrims can pay respects at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan. The first rounds of talks took place on March 14 at the Attari border in India while the second round will take place on April 2 at Wagah in Pakistan.