JAMMU, June 22: The upcoming annual ‘mela’ (fair) at the Chamliyal border shrine along the International Border (IB) in Jammu would not be held this year owing to frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
The epicentre of Indo-Pak bonhomie in the past, the shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, a saint popularly known as Baba Chamliyal is located in Samba district of the State and is thronged by lakhs of devotees during the three-day fair.
“The mela, which was scheduled on June 28 in Ramgarh sector, was cancelled on the advice of security agencies due to the prevailing mistrust,” official source said.
On June 13, four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, including an Assistant Commandant-rank officer, were killed and three others injured when Pakistan Rangers opened fire on the Chamliyal border outpost, taking the death toll in over 1200 ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year to 51. The dead included 25 security personnel.
Though no fresh ceasefire violation was reported along the IB and Line of Control (LoC) since June 13, Singh said the fair was cancelled as lakhs of people from across the country were expected to visit the area and their lives could not be put at risk.
“We cannot put the lives of the people at stake by holding the mela,” sources said.
“People are visiting the shrine on daily basis but this year, there will be no big gathering like yesteryears. No stalls will be set up and there will be no arrangements from our side,” they added.
During the fair, Pakistan Rangers used to exchange sweets with BSF personnel at Zero Line while a delegation of the force offered a chadar at the shrine, located one-and-a-half kilometres from Zero Line.
In return, BSF troops gave shakkar (holy sugar) and sherbet (holy water) from the shrine, believed to have healing powers to treat skin diseases, to the team for the devotees back in Pakistan.
Baba Chamliyal, after whom the village is named, lived about 320 years ago and is revered by the people of all faiths.
Till 1971, Pakistani nationals were allowed to come to the Indian side to pay obeisance at the shrine.
However, after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the practice was discontinued.
The fair on the Indian side is held for three days at the shrine complex, located around 50 kms from Jammu. In Pakistan, a similar fair is organised for a week in Saidanwali village of Sialkot district.