The state Punjab, also known as the land of five rivers is bordered by Pakistani Province of Punjab on the west. And to demarcate the Indo – Pakistan regions there is Line of Control and three main borders in Punjab. These are Wagah Border (near Amritsar); Hussainiwala border (near Firozpur) and Sulemanki border (near Fazilka).
Out of all these three, Hussainiwala border is just an hour’s journey from my hometown (35 Kms from Faridkot and 110 km from Ludhiana). We had planned several times earlier to see the flag retreat ceremony but failed. Finally, it was this time to get immersed in the electrifying atmosphere of patriotism. The time to see; the lines of demarcation created by humans on map, land as well as in minds; the stomping and posing by BSF (Border Security Forces) Jawans of India and Rangers of Pakistan.
About Hussainiwala Border, Firozpur
The Hussainiwala border lies 11 km from Firozpur. The border is bordered by Hussainiwala village on one side and Pakistani village Ganda Singh Wala on another side. The Indian check post is just 100 meters from the zero point whereas Pakistan’s post is around 600 meter. (As Narrated by the BSF personnel at Bunker)
The roads to reach the area are wide, clean and decorated with swaying golden wheat fields on each side. On the way, in evening you will only meet passing vehicles of army personnel and the travelers traveling to see the retreat. Before the border entrance, there is a huge Iron Bridge on River Sutlej which is closed on the Pakistan side.
Little History about Hussainiwala Border
The Firozpur Border used to be the trade route for import of Kandahari Angoor (dehydrated grapes) and other fruits from Pakistan and Afghanistan, till 1970. Since then the border roads are closed and only evening flag retreat ceremonies take place here.
The Flag Retreat ceremony at Hussainiwala Border
The flag retreat ceremony started taking place here only after 1970 when Mr. Ashawani Kumar Sharma, BSF Inspector General called upon both the authorities and suggested to start the flag retreat ceremony.
The ceremony happens at fixed timings everyday i.e. 5:30 pm in summers and 5:00 pm in winters and the whole ceremony lasts for half an hour. The entry gates open exactly half an hour before the beginning of the retreat. On entry, the patriotic songs were buzzing at full volume with the sun planning to settle down. There is an aroma of patriotism in the air. Meanwhile, some of the BSF Jawan’s were busy in settling down the crowd and they warned everyone from raising anti slogans.
Once I settled down, I saw the Indian and Pakistan galleries are so close and opposite, we could easily see each other so clearly. Is this the white line on the ground and gates on that line which has demarcated us into India and Pakistan? Why was the feeling and simultaneously there were questions running behind mind; after all, we all are humans and creation of same God, then, why there is so much hatred.
Before the retreat commenced there are a plethora of unstoppable patriotic slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” from the Indian side, reciprocated by Pakistan from another side of the border. Then was the entry of real heroes of the show – BSF Jawans and Pakistan Rangers in equal numbers (not only men, women too). The BSF Jawans are dressed in their dress with red Peta whereas the rangers in black Kurta Pyjamas.
The Jawans turn wise clatter their feet on the ground and stomp them in the air which is followed by huge cheer and applause from the countrymen. Rangers in response, try to give poses of being more fearless and aggressive. Each of them even widens their chests and to show their strength and anger. This is not all still the retreat of the flag is there and it is really interesting and jingoistic.
The flag Retreat
The Jawans and Rangers cross the white line to come to the other country and form a beautiful cross X with the flag threads. Both the flags are held together at the junction and then are brought down at speed and folded neatly. It is actually a unique and amazing experience to witness the whole retreat.
As soon as the flags are folded and handed over, the BSF Jawans ask you to leave the premises. They ensure that the civilians intentionally or unintentionally should not cross the borderline.
Some Important Points
- Do remember to carry the Identity card with yourself.
- There is an entry ticket (unpaid) or VIP Pass for the ceremony (which you get after showing I card). The ticket is equally important for the exit too. Losing ticket means inviting a trouble for yourself. The Jawans will kill you with the questions as well as think you have come across the border. I will say God save you here.
- VIP Passes will land you sitting in the front row on chairs and general ticket on stairs. I personally feel that location for general ones is better than VIP’s for good clicks and one feels more enthusiastic there seeing the whole crowd cheering up.
- In summers, the sun is on your head, so bring your umbrella as well as sun shades.
- You can carry your snacks and water bottle inside but do remember to bring them out too. Littering is not allowed and it helps to keep the premises clean too.
- Ask for the permission to click the picture with the BSF personnel. They won’t say No and they actually like getting themselves clicked.
- Nearby, there is a park where memorials of Shahid Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev are built. If you have time go and pay tribute to them.
- Don’t dare to raise any anti-national slogans as you will be chucked out and punished for the same.
- If elders are accompanying you, there is an indoor electric car which can help them till the ceremony area.
- Weekends are more crowded than the weekdays at Hussainiwala Border, as locals flock to see the ceremony, so plan your trip accordingly.
Both the countries India and Pakistan might have enough hatred for each other but the Border is one place where both the countrymen are enough civilized, happily cheerful and performs the same consensual rituals and now this ceremony had been happening for years. I just hope that similar understanding might solve the other problems between two nations and maintain peace.
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