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They are pawns in the great game

By Salil Kumar in Srinagar
April 04, 2005 18:28 IST
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Have the Al-nasireen, Save Kashmir Movement, Al-arifeen and Farzandan-e-Millat, the four militant groups that asked the passengers to Muzaffarabad not to enter the 'coffin', achieved a psychological victory?

It seems that more than the passengers it is the army and the state administration that are concerned; and if that was the goal of the militants, then they have achieved it.

At the time of writing this there are reports that all the passengers scheduled to take the bus on April 7 have been brought to the Tourist Reception Centre in Jammu and Kashmir's winter capital.

The passengers from Jammu are also on their way to the TRC, where they will be the state's guests till the big day.

When one of the journalists went to the TRC to meet them, he was not allowed in.

Needless to say the passengers themselves will not be allowed to leave the compound and venture out. Has anyone asked them what they want?

The hapless passengers must be wondering what they have let themselves into. While they were frantically hoping that their name would be on the list, they certainly would not have expected this.

On the one hand there are militants who do not want them to travel and on the other there is the state and central administration which is bent upon delivering them to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir come hell or high water.

In the process it will also score a PR victory and show the international community that all is well.

A couple of days ago in Baramulla, this writer went to the house of one of the passengers, Pir Mohammed Shafi.

Shafi was not there, but his mother and wife were. They shot the breeze with me for a while, but it was clear that something was bothering them.

Soon the truth came out: "He is my only son and he has three small children," the mother said. "Why have they threatened us now that the list has been put out? They should have said this when the bus link was announced."

She said she would not allow her son to go because there is a threat to his life. "The government will have to kill me first if it wants to take my son on the bus," she said.

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Asked where her son was, she said the Station House Officer of the police station in Baramulla town, Ali Mohammed Dar, had come to their house on Friday evening and summoned him to the station.

He was then kept at the Circuit House the whole night and allowed to leave in the morning.

Not only Shafi, but the three other passengers going from Baramulla were also taken to the Circuit House.

Shafi's relatives feared that the government would deliver their son to PoK and later leave him high and dry.

Which is the truth; how long can the government provide this kind of security to the passengers? And what of those who come back?

The best way to deal with the issue would have been to allow those who wanted to drop out to do so. After all, when one books a ticket, s/he is not obliged to travel.

The ticket can always be cancelled. Plus there are thousands who are dying to have a seat in the bus.

Of course, that the army would provide security to the bus itself is right. But for the state administration to keep them behind locked doors is silly, to say that least.

Does that guarantee security? What if there is a militant attack on the building one of these nights? Where will they be taken then?

There is more.

If a passenger cancels his ticket, s/he will not be allowed to go to PoK again.

Exactly why?

In international relations there is no space for individual wants. The present case highlights this more than ever.

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Salil Kumar in Srinagar