A Parody of Enmity
 The Retreat ritual at Attari mocks the seriousness of Indo-Pak ties

Attari, Amritsar: The white doves of peace are ritually buried every evening during the Retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border between India and Pakistan. The antagonism between the two countries is joyously celebrated by the Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers through a rehearsed and calibrated exercise of aggressive drill, provocative hand gestures, angry expressions and a cacophony of jingoistic movie songs which, robbed of all musicality, sound like noise. Cheering the soldiers on from the galleries are people, running into thousands, waving flags, raising jingoistic slogans, screaming their lungs out as the BSF soldiers metaphorically show the middle finger to the Pakistan Rangers. Across the two-tiered, heavily ironed gate, apparently the Rangers return the compliment in full measure.

“This is what the audience wants,” explains a BSF officer. “It gives them a sense of patriotism.” Apparently, the audience across the gate wants it too. Several years ago (perhaps, when enmity was not big business and patriotism was not served up on demand), there was a proposal to cut down the vitriolic ceremony, but it was turned down by the Punjab governments on both sides of the divide.

The start of the Retreat ceremony 2

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