The usual ritual of Chamliyal brotherhood between India and Pakistan was solemnized again at the holy shrine of Baba Dilip Singh Manhas, popularly known as Baba Chamliyal, at the international border in the Ramgarh sector of Samba district of Jammu region on Thursday.
Thousands of devotees from both sidesof the border converged at the sanctum sanctorum to pay obeisance to the Baba who holds great reverence for the people of India and Pakistan for being a common saint of friends and foes.
While the Indian and Pakistani counterparts shared goodwill gestures among themselves, the local populace which had thronged the venue in thousands from both sides to watch the happy union of the two countries, joined in the celebrations to make it a grand function.
While on one hand, Pakistani rangers offered Chaddar (holy blanket) for the shrine on behalf of the people of Sialkote, on the other, BSF and civil administration handed over Shakkar and Sharbat to Rangers for distribution among people on the other side of the border.
The 320-year-old shrine of Baba Chamliyal is a place of common faith for thousands of people on both sides of the border. The fair is held on the last Thursday of June every year.
The 30-member Pakistani delegation was headed by officiating Rangers Sector Wing Commander Jowad and was flanked by Pakistan Rangers Sector Wing Commander Ali and Deputy Commissioner Sialkot, other civil administration officials, police personnel and few locals. The delegation was received by BSF Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Border Security Force JC Singla, Deputy Commissioner Samba R K Verma and other officials of civil administration.
"The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere where issues related to Chamliyal fair were discussed. Pakistani Rangers were happy to be a part of celebrations and so was the civil administration who had come to greet the Indian population on behalf of the people of Pakistan," (DIG) Border Security Force J C Singla said.
The DIG avoided queries on ceasefire violations and other skirmishes taking place on the international border by saying, "The occasion is to observe a fair where both sides meet and exchange pleasantries. This is not a proper platform to discuss such issues for which other forums like flag meets are held".
On the issue of media being held back behind the concertina wires to avoid any interaction with Pakistani Rangers, Singla said there were certain border constraints. Since 2012, media has been debarred from holding interaction with Pakistani rangers and the status quo is maintained.
Baba Chamliyal Mela, celebrated on both sides of the international border, has become very popular since November 2003 following ceasefire and parallel peace initiatives by both India and Pakistan.
As devotees from Pakistan are not allowed to cross the Indo-Pak border, each year they gather at Saidawali village, located on the international border, from where they are provided Shakkar and Sharbat by BSF officers.
Before the Indo-Pak war in 1971, people from Pakistan were allowed to visit this side of the border, but now only Pakistani Rangers (border police) are allowed to participate in the festivals, who offer Chaddar on behalf of the people of Pakistan.