Hugging their relatives goodbye and with faith in their hearts that they will meet again, passengers of the Delhi Attari Express set off for Pakistan after midnight in New Delhi on Wednesday amid stringent security measures, almost three days after a similar train met with a terror attack that left 68 people dead.
The train left the Old Delhi Railway Station at 00.34 am, almost two hours behind its scheduled time after two coaches were added at the last moment and many passengers arrived late.
More than 600 passengers, carrying gifts back home and memories of wonderful times spent in India with relatives, hugged and said goodbye as tears rolled down their cheeks even as security personnel kept guard at the Old Delhi Railway Station and checked every baggage to prevent an attack similar to that on Sunday night in Dewana, 82 kms north of Delhi.
The passengers were allowed to board the 4001 Delhi-Attari Express on Platform no 18 after going through a series of stringent security checks that started right from the entry point of the Old Delhi Railway Station.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad came to see off the passengers and interacted with them and the security personnel for nearly 30 minutes. He arrived at around 11.15 pm. On his way back, he told mediapersons that he was "fully satisfied with the security measures and wished all the passengers a happy journey".
He said: "This train is a little dirty now, we will change all the coaches by Sunday." He added that two train ticket inspectors and two Railway Protection Force personnel have been deployed in every coach.
The train left the station almost packed.
Inspite of the carnage, the passengers, mostly Pakistanis, left the Indian capital with the hope that they will not face a similar incident on their way home.
"We have full faith in Allah and are sure that we will reach our homeland safe and sound. We are taking back lots of gifts and sweet memories of our stay in India," said Mohammed Ajmal Baig from Jhang, Pakistan.
"I arrived in Delhi on Feb 8 and spent almost two weeks with my cousin Mehraj Ali in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. I am taking back lots of clothes, fruits and many other gifts, like perfumes from India," Baig told before boarding the train.
Before boarding the train, passengers had to show their passport and visa and fill up a form again for address proof. Their luggage was searched and a sniffer dog squad made to search the train thoroughly. Around 100 Railway Protection Force personnel surrounded the train. Passengers were made to pass through metal detectors.
Though there were initially supposed to be 10 coaches — eight reserved compartments and two safety coaches — it was increased to 12. This train has no unreserved coaches after the terror attack on two unreserved coaches.
"I wish my brother-in-law Javed could have stayed with me for a longer time, but they are leaving for Pakistan. We had a great time at home and are looking forward to meeting him and his mother again in the near future," said MU Quereshi, who had come from Bareli in Uttar Pradesh to see off his relatives. Javed had stayed with him for almost a month.
The 4001 up train carries passengers headed for Pakistan from Delhi. It leaves at 10.50 pm on Sundays and Wednesdays.