After surgical strikes: Passengers on board Samjhauta Express ride on hope and prayers

Qureshi, a tailor from Lahore said, After saving for long, he had planned a trip to his sister’s house in Delhi and “skirmishes” between India and Pakistan were not going to stop him.

Written by Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi | Published:October 1, 2016 3:27 am
surgical-strike-759 People from Pakistan take a selfie at Old Delhi Railway Station Friday. Express photo  by Praveen Khanna

Passengers aboard the Samjhauta Express, which left for Delhi Thursday morning, heard about India’s “surgical strikes” against Pakistan while boarding the train at Attari in Punjab after crossing the Indo-Pak border.

“We got to know about the strikes just after crossing the border. But tensions had been mounting even before that. My family members wondered if it was a good idea at all. But I said I am not scared and set out,” 82-year-old Munazar Ahmed Qureshi Ali, who was travelling alone from Lahore to Delhi, said on Friday.

Qureshi, a tailor from Lahore, last visited India in 1962. After saving for long, he had planned a trip to his sister’s house in Delhi’s Lal Kuan and “skirmishes” between India and Pakistan were not going to stop him, he said, while boarding a rickshaw outside the Old Delhi railway station.

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Abdul Ahad, his wife Nazia and daughter Zillaummah were travelling from Karachi to Patna via Delhi. Ahad’s family fled to Bangladesh during Partition and then moved to Pakistan in 1980. He is now taking his wife and daughter to meet his relatives in Patna for the first time.

On the “surgical strikes” and the tension at the border, they said, “These skirmishes happen on the border. We are not involved and nothing will happen to us,” said Nazia, before the three walked towards the ticket counter in New Delhi station to book tickets for the next train to Patna.

Others, however, looked tense about the situation and relieved that they made it to their destination without trouble.

Arshad Parwez, who runs a printing press in Lahore, travelled to Delhi with his mother Zohra to meet relatives after many years. He said, “But we are disturbed about the situation. This could be the last train before the Samjhauta services are stopped. Then we will have to make other arrangements to return. We might have to cut short our trip as well.”

He added, “Everything is peaceful back home and things look normal here as well. But if train services stop, it will be a problem for people like us.”

Md Shams, wife Tahira and 22-year-old daughter Gazala cut short their trip to Pakistan by a week fearing that the train services between the two countries might be stopped. They returned by the Samjhauta Express Friday. “We went to Karachi to meet my wife’s relatives three weeks ago. But when we boarded the train to Delhi yesterday, the security checks at Attari were much more elaborate. Our luggage was rummaged through and we were screened for more than six hours. We knew it was because of the situation at the LoC,” said Shams, a dealer in embroidered cloth pieces from UP’s Farrukhabad district.

“No matter how much the leaders of the two countries fight with each other, there are no differences between people. And in such situations, roads and bridges should never be closed. Raaste kaayam rehne chahiye (The roads should be kept open),” said Pakistani-born Tahira.

Northern Railways spokesperson Neeraj Sharma said train services between the two countries are on. “The next Samjhauta Express will leave from Delhi on Sunday,” he said.