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December 21, 2001
2136 IST

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Javed Akhtar supports decision to recall envoy

Ronjita Kulkarni in Mumbai

Lyrist Javed Akhtar was one of the few privileged persons who travelled from India to Pakistan in the Delhi-Lahore bus in 1999.

The short bus journey was a regular feature signifying the friendship between the two neighbouring countries.

But from January one, 2001, the service will be discontinued.

Akhtar is shocked about the decision to discontinue the bus service, but said he agreed with it.

"It's so depressing for anyone. All this is so self-defeating and wrong. Terrorism won't get anyone anywhere. The earlier they (Pakistan) understand this, the better. I cannot understand their thought process. Some political parties (Pakistani parties) think that they can get away with these games. But they should be shown that they cannot get away so easily," Akhtar said.

Outraged by the December 13 attack on Parliament, he said, "I will not go overboard on this issue. But let me give a strong message. I will not tolerate such disrespect. The Parliament is a symbol of Indian democracy, of the Indian State and all that the country stands for. A strong action must be taken against this. We have passed the stage of words. Now only deeds will solve the problem. We must discuss a plan of action."

Supporting the decision to withdraw the Indian envoy from Pakistan, Akhtar said, "We have to show some anger for what they have done to us. Pakistan cannot say that they are not involved, when it is clear that they are."

Fondly remembering his bus journey to Lahore, he said, "It was a great honour to be invited by the Prime Minister to travel in that bus in 1999. My ticket number was three, just after the PM and another minister. I still have it!"

Though Akhtar has travelled all over the world, the acclaimed Bollywood lyricist insisted that the bus ride was a completely different experience.

"When I travel abroad, there are so many formalities, rituals, security (before entering a country). But in this trip, the journey (crossing the border) lasted for approximately 20 seconds. The bus barely moved a few yards when we reached Pakistan. It was so eerie. And depressing! The physical distance is so small, yet the political distance is so large. So near yet so far," Akhtar reminisced.

Everyone was in a festive mood that day and people were dancing in both sides of the border, Akhtar recalled.

When the passengers entered Pakistan they were offered soft drinks, while the military band played. They were then escorted to the Pearl Hotel, which is in the heart of Lahore.

"The hotel was very close to the border -- only 40 minutes away!" Akhtar said.

"People were waving and cheering from their balconies. They were genuinely happy. Only once we passed a group waving black flags and protesting. But that was only for a minute of the journey. The rest was full of warmth," he said.

Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament

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