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Two years on, no takers for peace bus
April 10, 2007 15:27 IST
Karvaan-e-Aman or Caravan of Peace completed its two years across the Line of Control on April 7, but the bus that was started with much fanfare and media hype has since slowed down considerably.
Only 860 people from both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir undertook the journey in the first year of the bus service launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi from Srinagar on April 7, 2005.
And in the second year, the number has further gone down.
Less than 1,700 people from Jammu and Kashmir and 1,900 from PoK have crossed sides since April 7, 2005 and the numbers include those from different crossing points which were opened after a devastating earthquake struck both sides of the LoC on October 8, 2005.
The LoC was opened at five places to exchange relief material for people affected by the quake on both sides of the divide, but now these were being used as full fledged crossing points.
The five points are Teethwal-Nauseri, Uri-Hajipeer, Kaman Post-Chakothi, Chakan-Da-Bagh-Rawalakote and Mendhar-Tattapani.
The peace bus that had begun its journey with much excitement, expectation and speed has slowed down considerably during the past two years as evident by the waning enthusiasm among the families on both sides of the LoC.
In two years of its launch, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, billed as the biggest ever Confidence Building Measure between India and Pakistan till then, has failed to live up to expectations.
About 10,000 applications from Indian citizens and 7,000 from PoK were being processed at the Regional Passport Office in Srinagar.
The past two years of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad has seen many high and low points.
After the much-hyped inaugural run, the Karvaan-e-Aman came under intense media glare as a seven-member Hurriyat delegation besides JKLF Chief Yasin Malik and DFP's Maulana Abdullah Taari boarded the trans-Kashmir bus to cross over to PoK in June 2005.
Then came the 7.6 magnitude earthquake, which destroyed the historic 170-km Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, also known as the Jhelum Valley road, at several places besides the ''Aman Setu'' peace bridge at the Kaman Post as well.
The bus service was suspended for a brief period till the road was re-constructed on both sides of the LoC.
In one of the runs last year, only two passengers -- a woman and her son -- had boarded the trans-Kashmir bus from Srinagar.