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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

?Samjhauta? in Indo-Pak peace

The Samjhauta is the most inexpensive way for families to catch up with dear ones across the border, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury & HS Bartwal.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2007 21:22 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury & HS Bartwal
Nilova Roy Chaudhury & HS Bartwal

Billed as the most enduring symbol of India-Pakistan peace links, the Samjhauta Express was introduced between Amritsar and Lahore in 1976, allowing ordinary Indians and Pakistanis to travel between the two countries.

With tickets priced at Rs 114/- from Delhi to Lahore, (and Pakistani Rs 190 from Lahore to Delhi), the Samjhauta Express is the most inexpensive way for families to catch up with relatives and friends across the border.

Though potentially such a high profile target, Monday’s blast is the first act of terror directed at the Samjhauta Express.

The only rail link for years before the Thar Express was re-launched (after a 41-year hiatus) on February 17 last year between Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokrapar in Sind, the train has helped reunite thousands of families severed by partition.

Prompting a former driver of the train, Allah Ditta, to say, “eh mohabbat di gaddi hai, is nu band na hon dena.” (‘This is a train of love, don’t let it stop’).

The bi-weekly ‘Samjhauta’ train service was run daily when it was first launched on July 22, 1976 to connect Amritsar to Lahore. It derives its name from the Simla Agreement signed in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In the three decades since it was launched, the train service has been stalled at least thrice, when tensions rose between the two countries.

The service was first suspended for a fortnight in 1984 when militancy in Punjab was at its height. Rioting mobs in Lahore damaged the train when violence escalated in both countries after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, forcing the Indian Railways to stop the service. When reintroduced after some months, the train became a bi-weekly service.

It was then stalled for two years in January 2002, when India withdrew the train, after the attack on the Indian Parliament. The train resumed its service in January 2004, extending its run from Attari to Delhi, when India and Pakistan launched a renewed composite peace process. Around 1,000 people, who must have valid visas, take the train every week.

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First Published: Feb 19, 2007 21:22 IST

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