A Sufi shrine that manifests “compassion and peaceful coexistence” is the latest victim of Indo-Pak border conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Ahead of the annual Urs of Baba Chamliyal—that sees participation of thousands of enthusiastic devotees from both sides of the border at the Zero Line—four Border Security Force (BSF) troopers were killed and five others injured when Pakistan Rangers targeted the Baba Chamliyal outpost in Ramgarh sector in Samba district on Wednesday.
The recent flare up in border tensions in this otherwise peaceful sector has triggered uncertainties over the upcoming fair—which is held each year on the fourth Thursday of June.
In a statement, the BSF said, “Around 2140 hours Pak Rangers Post Asraf started unprovoked firing on BOP Chamliyal with flat and high trajectory weapons. Retaliating this unprovoked fire, Jitender Singh, Assistant Commandant, SI Rajneesh, ASI Ramniwas, Constable Hansraj attained martyrdom. Three other bordermen received severe injuries. Injured BSF personnel have been evacuated to hospital.”
An epicentre of Indo-Pak bonhomie
“It’s really unfortunate. This has happened for the first time and that too in the holy month of Ramzan,” Avinash Choudhary, a local resident told National Herald, adding that “Despite border conflict, this area has particularly remained peaceful. Thousands of pilgrims stand on either sides of the border to see a glimpse of the ceremony of offering of a chadar to the officers of BSF by the Pakistani Rangers to lay it on the Dargah of Baba Chamliyal.”
These killings have cast an ominous shadow on the upcoming ceremony, which is more than 320 years old, he added.
The shrine is said to be a Hindu shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, popularly known as ‘Baba Chamliyal’ which is situated about 42 km from Jammu and Kashmir’s winter capital, Jammu. After the guns fell silent following joint declaration of November 2003 ceasefire by India and Pakistan, the shrine caught media attention and gained prominence. BSF for India and its counterpart Chenab Rangers of Pakistan mainly manage the annual fair.
Every year in Saidanwali village on the Pakistan side of the Zero Line, residents organise a three-day fair and wait for ‘Shakkar’ (soil) and ‘Sharbat’ (sweet water) of Baba Chamliyal’s Dargah, which are believed to have medicinal properties against various skin ailments.
But the impact of growing militarisation in border areas is quite visible here as well. The local residents maintain that before the Indo-Pak war in 1971, Pakistanis were allowed to visit this side of the border, but now only Pakistani Rangers are allowed to participate in the festival, who offer chadar on behalf of the people of Pakistan. The chadar offered by Pakistan Rangers is then laid at the holy shrine of Baba Chamliyal by the senior officers of BSF.
Setback to peace initiatives
This is the second major ceasefire violation along the IB this month and came despite Director General Military Operations (DGMO) of the two countries agreeing on May 29 to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit”.
On June 3, two BSF personnel, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector, were killed and 10 persons, mostly civilians, injured in heavy shelling and firing by Pakistan Rangers along the IB in Pragwal, Kanachak and Khour sectors. The latest casualties take the number of those killed in ceasefire violation by Pakistan along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year to 50, including 24 security personnel.
As per the official data of Home Ministry, there have been over 860 ceasefire violations along LoC and International Border in 2018 and most of the incidents have occurred in Jammu region. In 2017, as per the official data 860 and 111 ceasefire violations (CFV) were reported on LoC and IB respectively, during which 12 civilians and 19 armed forces personnel were killed.
On June 4, the Pakistan Rangers had sought a flag meeting in which it was agreed to respect the bilateral ceasefire.