DERA BABA NANAK, Gurdaspur—Hardevender Singh has been a resident of Germany for 33 years. He was around 23 years old when he sought the help of a travel agent to make a discreet journey to Berlin and seek political asylum. He had been slapped with criminal cases two years after the gruesome 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Police knocks on his door and family interrogations at odd hours had become a frequent affair. He was accused of sympathising with and harbouring Khalistani militants. Escaping to Germany meant uprooting himself from India and leaving his family behind. He lost his younger brother three years ago and his mother three months ago, but he could not make the journey home to Jalandhar to attend their last rites. He was on the Indian government’s blacklist.
Singh is back in India for the second time in a fortnight after three decades. He is part of the official Indian jatha (group) that will witness history with the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor on Saturday. Two weeks ago he was in Delhi talking to officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs as the Indian government paved the way for taking 312 Indian origin Sikhs off the blacklist.
On Friday he was emotional and teary eyed. “Baba Nanak has opened a road for possibility between India and Pakistan. All border states of Germany do business and progress together. If people in India and Pakistan stop fighting and do business together, we can also prosper like the European Union,” he said. Asked if he thinks the Kartarpur Corridor will be used by the Pakistani establishment to fan separatist sentiments among the Sikh community, Singh said “Khalistan was heard of only post 1984” and that this political blame game on the issue was not a matter of concern. “Terrorism issues can be resolved through dialogue on the table. Europe too has seen terror strikes,” he said.