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'My son will take the bus over my dead body'

By Salil Kumar in Baramulla
April 04, 2005 09:31 IST
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With less than three days left for the Muzaffarabad-bound bus to roll out from Srinagar, police forces in Baramulla district are trying to make sure passengers from their area are come to no harm.
The threats by four militant groups –- the Al-Nasireen, Save Kashmir Movement, Al-Arifeen and Farzandan-e-Millat –- to those who are going to board the bus have prompted them to give security to the passengers.
Three passengers from Baramulla town are spending their nights in the local police station since Friday. There is also a lady – Hajra Begum -- scheduled to go, but it is not known what kind of security has been given to her.

Despite assurances from security forces, some families are taking the threat seriously.
When this correspondent spoke to a family, which does not want to be identified, the mother and wife of the man whose name has been cleared by the Pakistani authorities to board the bus on April 7 started crying.
"He is my only son and he has three small children," the mother told on Saturday. "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 her son wanted to visit his uncle -– her brother -– on the other side of the border.
Her brother had gone to his shop in Muzaffarabad when Partition happened. He could not come back. He married and settled there and is the father of three sons and a daughter, who are married with kids.

Divided by the Line of Control, the two families used to stay in touch with the help of letters and telephone. But ever since the rise in militancy, that, too, has stopped.

Five years ago, the old lady and her son had been to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to visit their relatives.
"We were very happy when the bus link was announced. When I watch reports on it, I am filled with joy. Now this has happened," the mother said.
What was causing her more concern was the offer of security -- in border areas like these the security agencies and terrorists are spoken of in the same breath.
The Station House Officer of the police station in Baramulla town, Ali Mohammed Dar, came to their house on Friday evening and summoned her son to the station because he wanted to talk to him.

He was kept in the station the whole night and let off in the morning. The son then proceeded to Srinagar on -– according to what the family members said later in the evening -– some work.
"I told the SHO that my husband was not a militant or an informer and that he should not be taken to the police station," his wife said wiping off her tears.

"We have not heard anything from him since evening. We are poor people. We don't want to go through all this."
The offer of security was, for this family at least, akin to detention.
Efforts to talk to the man failed as the family did not want to say where he was.
The situation was no different at Hajra Begum's house. Her grandson told that she was too old and too shy to talk to journalists.

Later, when asked about passengers from his area, the SHO said, "There are no such people in the area. You will have to go to Uri if you want to meet such people."
He then read out a story from an Urdu paper of a 105-year-old woman who died before her relatives could arrive from PoK.
He also said all the families were confident that security would be provided to them. "These threats are only on paper. Here militants issue threats everyday. Around 10 years ago the militants asked people to desist from smoking. But did the people listen? They are used to such threats."
A senior army officer told on condition of anonymity that everyone scheduled to go from Baramulla would board the bus. "Take it from me in writing – they will go 101%."
In any case why did they apply when there was a threat, he asked. "It is not that this threat has emerged suddenly."
Those refusing to board the bus will not be allowed to apply for a ticket again, he added.

Interestingly, he said till the bus service is stabilised, not many people from areas with Jamaat-e-Islami sympathisers will be given permission to travel across the border.
Though the bus service is being hailed, it is clear as of now that it will be some time before it stabilises.
He was also confident that those with a ticket would take the bus.
But the hysterical mother said, "The government will have to kill me first if it wants to take my son on the bus."


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Salil Kumar in Baramulla