Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wagah Border : The road to Pakistan

What an atmosphere, what a drama! The crowd that gathered on the Indian side should not be less than 12000, about half this number were on the other side of the border. Fridays normally get a larger crowd than other days. This is the road to Pakistan. The Delhi – Lahore bus service passes through these gates. The Samjhauta Express, the train that runs between Delhi and Lahore, also passes through this border post. Over the last few years, Wagah border has grown in popularity as a tourist destination. Wagah has become popular for its ceremonial lowering of flags at the border gates every evening. I must say it was an unforgettable experience to be able to visit the Wagah border.

Wagah border is 30 kms from Amritsar city. You need to be there by 5 pm. Start by 4 if you plan to visit Atari station as well. We managed some VIP treatment courtesy our colleague Sunil whose father works with BSF. We could drove almost to the entrance. Otherwise you need walk down half a kilometer from the parking area. Part of the crowd that day went there to submit memorandum for release of Sarbjit Singh who has been awarded death penalty in Pakistan in a supposed case of mistaken identity. Crowd lept building up at the entrance to the arena. Suddenly, there was chaos and people stated running for stadiums for a better seat. There is a system in place for entering the stadium in a systematic way and gates open for entry at 5:30 pm. But all went for a toss that day. We got lost in the surge of the crowd and so did our VIP status. Though later we managed to talk our way into the VIP sitting area but it was too late for us to find a good place up in the stadium and so had to settle for a place down below. My suggestion is that try to sit on the parapets along the road rather than in the stadium and sit on the right hand side of the road to avoid the sun in taking photographs.

What an atmosphere! There are mini stadiums built for the crowds that can easily seat 15000 people. Between the arched entrances into this sitting areas on both sides of the border, there stands the two gates together, one each opening to India and Pakistan. Soon after we were seated, the BSF started playing desh bhakti songs on large speakers. The place started vibrating with shunts of Vande Mataram, Jai Hind and Bharat Mata Ki Jai from the 12000 plus strong crowd. Some kids were allowed to run with a flag to the border gate. Everyone’s patriotic feelings seem to get a new vigour despite the heat and humidity. Something similar was happening on the Pakistani side as well. BSF guards were keeping a tight control on the crowd. The retreat ceremony started at 6:30 pm just when the sun strated going down in diatant Pakistan. Everyone was asked to sit tight. The gates on both sides were flung open for the ceremony. The parades of the guards were something that really amused the crowds. The crowd enjoyed the antics of the fast march-pasts that often ended with steps of legs rising above heads and foot tapings from the steeled bottoms of the boots. This is not the normal march past you get to see. It was a nicely orchestrated drama. Both the Indian and Pakistani rangers followed almost the same routine. The flags were lowered and the gates were closed after handshakes between the guards. That bought an end to the ceremony. It was almost dark by then. The sapping humidity had left us all exhausted.

We could not visit the Attari station, as we were late in starting from Amritsar. Attari station just 3 kms from here.


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awesome blog!
i went to wagah recently. n they followed the exact same procedure. and i must say the atmosphere was electric out there...! it made me feel very patriotic for some reason!
excuse me for my poor history but wats so special about attari station?

Obiwan Kenobi said...

Dear Rupankar,

May peace come to all people of India and Pakistan soon.

Live Long and Prosper