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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Retreat ceremony crowd-puller for locals, tourists alike

Aseem Bassi, Hindustan Times  Amritsar, September 26, 2013
First Published: 20:08 IST(26/9/2013) | Last Updated: 21:15 IST(26/9/2013)

As gunshots are exchanged from both sides even at slightest of provocation at the Line of Control (LoC) and scenes of effigy burning and protests emerge whenever there is tension between India and Pakistan, aggressive actions at the retreat ceremony, wherein forces from both the nations try to outscore each other through skills in the drill, continues to remain a crowd-puller.

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Due to its cultural and religious importance, Amritsar has always remained a major tourist destination. However, in the past few years the retreat ceremony at the Attari border, where jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistani rangers participate in the high voltage drill, attracts a lot of tourists.

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             (BSF troops during the retreat ceremony at Attari border. Munish Byala/HT)

Not only people from across the nation, but also foreign tourists throng the Attari border in large numbers every evening.
Patriotic songs on both sides of the border, jam-packed stands, slogans in favour of their respective countries from both the sides set the stage for the high-voltage retreat ceremony.

No matter what the relations are, the Pakistani Rangers and the BSF jawans maintain aggressive postures. As the aggression increases, the feet go high to hit back the ground with a heavy thud and the applause reaches its crescendo.
Voices of "Hindustan Zindabad" capture the Indian stands that are jam-packed with tourists. Around 7,000 to 10,000 tourists come to cheer for the country every evening.

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           (Foreign tourists enjoying themselves at Attari border. Munish Byala/HT)

As soon as the 20-minute ceremony ends, Attari breaks into an impromptu dance party. Be it Indian or foreigner, they all are seen dancing to the tunes of patriotic tunes played by the BSF.

The ceremony has become so popular over the past few years that a majority of the tourists visiting the holy city doesn't go back without visiting the joint Indo-Pak check post that hosts the ceremony.

Scenes of the National Flag fluttering in the air and kids running in celebration towards the border gates make the atmosphere electrifying.

Lack of infrastructure
Even though the Attari border retreat ceremony has become a major crowd-puller, the government has failed to develop infrastructure at the border. The tourists are seen jostling due to lack of space. Although the government has made several announcements to increase the space, all has remained on paper till now. Lack of space, lack of eateries and haphazard parking - all bring woes to the tourists.

Although the BSF has announced a plan and design for a new-look gallery, the wait continues.

Major attractions
BSF jawans and Pakistani rangers perform with high energy
Breathtaking aggression
Patriotic feel through sloganeering
Tourists dance to the tune of patriotic songs

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