Baba Chamliyal’ annual fair cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak

JAMMU: The ‘Baba Chamliyal’ annual fair celebrated on both sides of the International border in Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir has been cancelled this year in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Monday.

The decision was conveyed by the district administration to the management of the shrine, the epicentre of India-Pakistan bonhomie in the past, at a meeting on Monday.

“The district administration has decided not to hold the mela this year due to COVID-19 pandemic,” Billu Choudhary, chairman of the management committee of the revered shrine, said.

He said the management will offer a ”chadar” at the shrine on behalf of the villagers and will offer special prayers for eradication of COVID-19.

The three-day fair, scheduled to take place later this week, attracts devotees from various parts of the country besides Pakistan as the shrine is located near the zero line in Ramgarh sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

The fair was also cancelled in 2018 following the killing of four BSF personnel, including an assistant commandant, in unprovoked firing by Pakistan Rangers on June 13 that year.

Last year, thousands of devotees had thronged the famous shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, popularly known as Baba Chamliyal, from different parts of the country.

While the fair is held for three days at the shrine complex on the Indian side, it is held for a week on the opposite side of the border in Saidanwali village of Sialkot district in Pakistan.

Pakistani nationals were allowed to come to the Indian side of the border to pay obeisance at the shrine till 1971.

However, after the 1971 India-Pakistan war, the practice was stopped.

Since then, a Pakistani Rangers delegation comes to offer chadar at the shrine and, in return, carries ”shakkar’ and ‘sharbat” for the devotees in the neighbouring nation.