Friday, March 10, 2006

Melting Borders

Category: News Winners, Issue 2

Melting Borders
By Dr George Karimalil

In spite of her age, 72-year-old Ameena dragged herself across the Line of Control (LoC), the international border that divides India and Pakistan, and fell into the outstretched arms of her 68-year-old sister. They hugged and wept uncontrollably, telling each other what they had missed all along. The last time they had met was 25 years ago.

Maqsood Ahmed, a reporter with Radio Kashmir saw his cousin Zulfikar, a reporter with BBC Radio in Muzaffarabad. Zulfikar had migrated from Uri to Muzaffarabad in 1990. They smiled, waved and conveyed the welfare of their families, shouting across the 10 long feet they were not allowed to walk.

Similar scenes were to be seen at the opening of the third relief point at Teetwal in Tangdhar, where hundreds waved and shouted across the Kishenganga River at their relatives on the other bank. The passport office at Srinagar has distributed around 3,000 application forms in the last week. “We don’t know how long it will take,” said LS Ramulu, regional passport officer. Outside his office stood Ghulam Mohiuddin Dar, a peasant from Sumbul in Baramulla. His uncle in Muzaffarabad, who lost everything, called thrice for help.

The longing to reach out to friends and relatives cut across the painful divide. The massive earthquake that struck the border regions of India and Pakistan on 23 October 2005 claimed more than 100,000 lives, besides destroying properties worth billions of dollars. None would have ever thought that a tragedy of such dimension would result in melting the Line of Control. Not just one but at five points, the LoC has been opened, facilitating the affected not only to seek help but also to bring together the divided families.