AS soldiers combed the administrative complex and stores adjacent to the 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters in Uri where 18 Army personnel were killed by Pakistani terrorists in a dawn attack Sunday, a bus with only eight passengers on board went past the camp Monday morning. It was headed to Muzaffarabad, across the Line of Control from where the terrorists are suspected to have sneaked in.
As Indo-Pak ties hit their lowest point in recent years, the Karvan-e-Aman or Peace Bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad was the only civilian vehicle allowed Monday to ply through the brigade headquarters to the Kaman Post and beyond. Civilian areas beyond the brigade headquarters remained out of bounds for the second day with the Army and BSF patrolling every stretch.
At 10 am, the J&K State Road Transport Corporation bus left Uri town with eight passengers — three from the Valley and five from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). “I am going to meet my relatives who are in Muzaffarabad with a message of peace,’’ one of the passengers, who was from Baramulla, said as the bus left for Kaman Post.
Abdul Qayoom Khan, a resident of Boneyar, said one of his relatives was on board the bus. “After the Sunday attack, there was apprehension that the bus will not ply today. But last evening, officials told us that the bus will ply on Monday. We had planned to see them off at Salamabad (the trade facilitation centre at the LoC) but we dropped the idea after the attack,’’ he said.
The bus, Khan said, was the only CBM (confidence-building measure) that had really worked, helping connect people on both sides of the LoC. “This is the service that connects two parts of Kashmir. We hope that there is increase in the bus service frequency, not the rhetoric. It is for the good of people on both sides of the LoC,” he said.
The bus service, started in April 2005, has so far been used by more than 3,000 people.
Around 2 pm, 10 passengers from PoK walked across the Kaman Aman Setu and, after verification of travel documents, boarded the bus that left for Salamabad. Officials said that the bus will remain stationed at Salamabad until late Monday night and will move then move towards Srinagar.
Uri Station House Officer Ghulam Mohammad told The Indian Express that eight passengers from Uri left for Muzaffarabad on Monday morning while 10 passengers came on the Muzaffarabad bus. “The crossing took place around 2 pm at Kaman. The passengers crossed without any problem and are now headed to their destinations,” he said.