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Patiently they wait for voices from across the divide
Sovi Vidyadharan | October 21, 2005 11:42 IST
With trembling fingers, they pressed the digits on the telephone, eager to hear the voice of their near and dear ones from the other side of the Line of Control.
Residents of Tangdhar and nearby villages flocked in large numbers from daybreak to the new temporary telephone exchange set up here for contacting their relatives in Muzzafarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and adjoining areas.
Muzzafarabad, where majority of their relatives reside, was the epicentre of the October eight killer quake that claimed thousands of lives in South Asia.
For the survivors in Tangdhar, the telephone facility installed on a war footing on Wednesday for trans-LoC communication has been quite a boon, as each family here has at least one relative in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Besides Tangdhar, some 200 kilometres north of Srinagar, the exchange is also operational in Uri, Jammu and Srinagar for a 15-day period.
Some of the villagers, like Ghulam Mustafa of Khodpara village near Tangdhar were lucky as they could speak to their kin across the LoC after a gap of almost two decades.
"My uncle and his family live in the Mohajir (refugee) camp in Muzaffarabad. I had come early in the morning and tried his number at least a dozen times. Finally, I was lucky to talk to my aunt," he says.
Tears filled his eyes as he heard that his uncle's house had been severely damaged, but he thanked God that at least nobody was killed.
"I was sad to hear that Gulnar (his cousin) broke her leg and one of her ribs, and was admitted to a hospital in Muzaffarabad. But I thank Allah for his mercy in sparing her life," Mustafa says.
However, out of the 70 people who have turned up at the exchange till Friday, only 20 were lucky, the reason being severe damage to telecommunications infrastructure in and around Muzaffarabad.
Shafique Ahmed, resident of the remote border village of Kanei, was one among those disappointed as he could not make a call to the other side of the divide despite repeated attempts.
"My grandfather's brother and his family live in Muzaffarabad and though I had been trying their number since early morning, it was total silence on the other side," he says.
"I somehow fear that they have suffered terrible losses in the quake. I pray to the Almighty that they should be alive somewhere," he adds.
Rasool Ahmed of Naiduian village squats nearby waiting for his turn like many others beside him.
The Station House Officer of Tangdhar, Ghazi Abdul Karim, while controlling the crowd that had gathered near the exchange said that people had come from remote villages, some trekking over 15 kilometres to reach here.
"Some were angry at not being able to speak to their relatives. We had a tough time explaining to them that it was due to technical problems on the other side," he said.
Though the exchange has an incoming facility from Muzaffarabad, not a single call has come from there, officials manning the centre said.
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