April 2005 News

Next Kashmir Bus To Roll On Apr 21 Despite Rebel Threats

12 April 2005
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: The second trans-Kashmir bus service between the Indian and Pakistani zones of the Himalayan territory will roll on April 21, two weeks after the inaugural run, despite rebel threats to attack the vehicles, officials said yesterday. Last week, 30 people arrived in Indian Kashmir after travelling the 160km route from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, on the first bus service linking the two regions since 1947. Nineteen passengers went in the opposite direction. 'The next bus will roll on April 21,' Jammu and Kashmir's federal passport officer John Shilshi said. The launch of the service is seen as the first tangible fruit for Kashmiris of a 14-month-old peace process between the rival nuclear powers that have fought two of their three wars over control of the divided territory. Militants fighting New Delhi's rule in Kashmir have threatened to turn the buses into 'coffins,' saying the service does nothing to further the cause of the revolt and labelling passengers 'traitors.' The bus service was ended in 1947 when Pakistan-backed tribesmen sought to seize control of the former princely state which joined India when the subcontinent became independent from Britain. Shilshi said a list of more than 100 passengers planning to visit Muzaffarabad in the second bus was given on Friday to Pakistani authorities. Pakistani officials handed over a list of 50 passengers wishing to visit Indian Kashmir. 'After completing formalities regarding clearance of the passengers, we will return the lists during the next meeting,' Shilshi said. He said the meeting would be held a week before the second buses roll. Passengers who rode the first trans-Kashmir bus service in nearly 60 years have been enjoying emotional family reunions, visiting ancestral homes and getting to know life on the 'other side' of the divided territory. Security services on both sides will check the backgrounds of the passengers before clearing them for the travel. 'We will provide fool-proof security to the bus service given the militant threat,' police officer Javed Ahmed said. Army official Lieutenant General Hari Prasad said troops would provide military-style protection to passengers. 'Arrangements we do for our convoys will be the same that are in place for the bus service,' he said. Troops were posted along the entire road from Srinagar to Kaman Post, the last point on Indian side for the inaugural bus service. Last week police defused a large bomb planted along the route and four people were hurt by a blast just outside Srinagar barely 10 minutes after a bus bound for Pakistan-controlled Kashmir passed. Political analysts say the rebels fear the service allowing Kashmiris from different sides of the divided zones to meet could undermine support for the militant cause. Most of the rebel groups are fighting for Kashmir to become part of Pakistan.


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