Thousand of devotees on Thursday thronged the Chamliyal border shrine along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir for an annual fair but there was no traditional exchange of ‘shakkar and sharbat’ with Pakistan for the second successive year.
The famous fair at the shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, a saint popularly known as Baba Chamliyal, in Samba district was last year cancelled following the killing of four BSF personnel in firing by Pakistani rangers.
Since there was no formal communication between Pakistan rangers and Indian border guarding force, no delegation came from Pakistan and there was no exchange of sweets, ‘chadar’ or ‘shakkar’ (sacred clay) and ‘sharbat’ (water), a BSF official told PTI.
Baba Chamliyal, after whom the village on the zero line in Samba district’s Ramgarh sector is named, lived over 300 years ago and is revered by the people of all faiths.
The fair has become popular since November, 2003 after a ceasefire and parallel peace initiatives by both the countries. While it is held for three days at the shrine complex on the Indian side, it is also held for a week on the opposite side of the border in Saidanwali village of Sialkote district in Pakistan.
Till 1971, Pakistani nationals were allowed to come to the Indian side of the border to pay obeisance at the shrine. However, after the 1971 India-Pakistan war, the practice was stopped. Since then, only a delegation of Pakistan rangers comes to offer chadar at the shrine and, in return, carries ‘shakkar and sharbat’ from the shrine for the devotees in Pakistan.
“Over two lakh devotees from across the country have attended the Mela so far and we have made all necessary arrangements for their comfort,” District Development Commissioner, Samba, Sushma Chauhan, said
Many devotees have claimed to have healed of their skin ailments after visiting the shrine.
The officer said the mela starts on June 2 and concludes on June 27 with major activity like setting of stalls and entertainment for kids organised in the last three days.
“This shrine is the biggest example of communal harmony and people of both sides of the IB used to offer their prayers together. We are in favour of good neighbourly relations between the two countries to usher peace in the region,” Sardar Santok Singh, a local resident, said.