LAHORE - Indian Army General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri is famously known for his words, “Tomorrow we will drink in Lahore Gymkhana.” When one reaches the border on Lahore’s side, one can easily imagine how close the General was from gymkhana. But then it’s all history.

Wagah border comes to life around sunset every day, just before the flag lowering ceremony is conducted. This has been the ritual since 1959 after former Field Marshal Ayub Khan took over. The Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force at the border show their power, stomp their feet, give intimidating stares and take goose-steps. The crowd is energised, chants slogans and sings national anthems. As Defence of Pakistan Day is fast approaching people from different walks of life and of all ages gather to witness the ceremony and experience the spirit of patriotism.

Even though the ceremony on both sides of the border is the same yet there are stark differences one cannot miss. When one listens to stories from elders who witnessed partition they would never miss out telling you how the Hindus used to play music while it was time for Azan. The same could be witnessed at the Wagah border even today. The moment call for Asr prayers was heard the Indians started playing music. It was disliked by the crowd.

Secondly, Pakistan’s side has Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait on ‘Baab-e-Azadi’ and has the partition slogan engraved on it; Pakistan ka matlab kia, La illahha illallah, which means “What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah.” This political slogan and a couplet was coined in 1944 by Asghar Sodai, an Urdu poet. While on the Indian side, there were pictures of Indian armed forces and a slogan saying ‘first line of defence’. This difference shows the religious context and the basis on which Pakistan was formed and depends on, while the Indian side symbolises that they look towards their defence line in difficult circumstances. Another difference that can be seen is the colour of the domes on both sides; India has a golden dome while Pakistan has white domes.

On 14th August Pakistan hoisted its largest flag on Wagah border that was inaugurated by Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa. It can be seen from far away, while India did not have its flag on its pole as it couldn’t stand the strong winds and was being fixed for the 5th time.

Another stark difference, BSF was taking rounds between the gates of both countries with their German Sheppard ‘sniffing dogs’ for security checks. While Pakistan Rangers had other security arrangements, as Wagah border came under terrorist attack on 2 November 2014 and killed nearly 60 people.

Pakistan has a sliding gate at the border now while Indian gates are like flaps that have to be pulled open. Earlier, Pakistan too had the same gate. It is still not clear why it was changed. National songs cannot be ignored on the border but Pakistan has a list of songs, which are widely appreciated by the masses and learnt by heart. India played songs from various Indian movies based on their nationalism.

Towards the end of the ceremony, the public takes pictures near the gate with Pakistan Rangers, while the BSF soldiers place barriers to bar its public from reaching the gate.

Even though this ceremony is conducted on a daily basis but on national days it touches new levels. Not only the general public attends it but families of serving, retired and martyred officers also join it.

 

R Umaima Ahmed