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Candle-light vigil at border turns sour

By Sarabjit Pandher

CHANDIGARH AUG. 16 . Efforts by peace activists to organise a joint candle-light vigil at the Hussianewala joint checkpost on the Indo-Pakistan border in Ferozepur turned bitter owing to the non-cooperative attitude of the authorities from across the border.

This was the first effort ever along a section of the border to emulate the event at the Wagah-Attari border post in Amritsar.

Reports said that contrary to the expectation of the organisers, thousands had reached the spot.

Even folk artists, who had promised to perform, were late in reaching the venue.

Activists of the Ferozepur-based Indo-Pak. Friendship Society led by the journalist and social activist, Satya Pal Baghi, and Harpal Singh Bhullar of the International Bhai Mardana Society had planned the programme at the zero line to mark the Independence Day.

A delegation of Pakistan leaders was expected for the events scheduled after the completion of the retreat ceremony.

However, except for the co-chairman of the Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PGPC), Sham Singh, none reached the spot from the other side.

According to Mr. Baghi, Mr. Singh not only refused to light the candle, but also made "vicious remarks" against India.Mr. Baghi quoted Mr. Singh as saying that he could not light the candle on India's Independence Day as the Indian Government had ordered `Operation Bluestar' to desecrate the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, Golden Temple, and destroy the Akal Takhat in 1984.

He also accused India of religious intolerance for allowing the razing of the Babri Masjid.Understanding that Mr. Singh was under pressure from Pakistan's ISI officers present there, Mr. Baghi told The Hindu that the PGPC chief had said that there was no reason for the Sikhs to celebrate as they were enslaved both in India as well as Pakistan.

However, Mr. Baghi stressed that Mr. Singh, immediately on arrival, had agreed to light the candle and had stated that he reached the border after clearing many obstacles.

Refusing to accept that the attempt had failed as the turnout on both sides indicated that people wanted peace, Mr. Baghi quoted his "friends" on the other side of border as informing him that about 4000 people were not allowed to proceed beyond the Pakistan army barrier between Hussianewala and Ganda Singhwala.

He said that next year the event would be organised to jointly celebrate the Independence Day of both the countries.

The organisers would hold a function next to the memorial of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were cremated at Hussianewala.

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