The 48 truckers from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) who have been stranded on the Indian side since Friday's drug seizure have threatened to go on hunger strike.
On Thursday afternoon, the drivers demanded the release of fellow trucker Mohammad Shafiq Awan, who was arrested for allegedly carrying 114 packets of brown sugar by concealing them in almonds.
The contraband had to be supplied to Shaukat Habib, a resident of Bandipora district, who has now been arrested by the police.
Officials at the Salamabad trade facilitation centre said the 48 drivers came out while heavy snowfall was on, sat on a dharna and started shouting slogans for Awan's release.
Following the protests, district authorities rushed to the spot to talk to the drivers. Ghulam Mohammad Khawaja, district commissioner of Baramulla, said he personally visited Salamabad trade centre and told the drivers that the matter was now between New Delhi and Islamabad.
"We also told them that we were willing to let them cross over to the Pakistani side if their country accepted them," he said.
In retaliation to the trucker's arrest for allegedly smuggling 114 packets of brown sugar, Pakistan had closed the LoC crossing after detaining 27 Indian trucks and their drivers who had crossed over to PoK to deliver goods at Chakoti trade facilitation centre under a bilateral trade agreement.
"Following the arrest, PoK authorities closed the border and demanded the release of the truck,
its driver and the consignment. They have been saying that the driver was not in know of the contents and was a mere carrier," said Shaliendra Kumar, divisional commissioner of Kashmir.
After detaining 27 trucks that had crossed over, Pakistani authorities had refused to let the 48 trucks from Muzafarabad to come back until the seized truck was also part of the convoy.
While Centre is still bilaterally working with Pakistan to resolve the issue, families of the Indian truckers have expressed concerns about their safety. "We want to assure the families of drivers from India that they are safe. They are the unfortunate sufferers of this tangle. We are also waiting for their safe return," Kumar said.