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Divided families happy

By Our Staff Reporter

JAMMU, FEB. 16. The decision by India and Pakistan to launch the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service on April 7 has been greeted with joy here. Most of the State's divided families have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the road link.

Harbans Singh, 80, hopes to restore links with his brothers in the Rawlakot area of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Parmjeet Singh and Bhagat Singh were left behind when Harbans Singh's family, like several others, migrated to India. Efforts to bring them back failed. A Muslim friend adopted them and provided education. Harbans Singh has been in constant touch with his brothers but because of the hostilities between the two countries he has not been able to meet them. "I hope that now, in the last years of my life, I will be able to meet my brothers," he said with tears in his eyes.

Today's announcement has also rekindled the hope that the other road links too will also be opened. Says Khurshid Ahmed of Rajouri: "My relatives live in [the] Kotli area of PoK and I have not seen them for the last five decades. I hope to meet them when the old Rajouri-Mirpur road is thrown open."

The Muzaffarabad route was constructed during Maharaja Ranbir Singh's reign. Historians have noted the tireless efforts of a British officer, Colonel Nisbet, in making possible this "magnificent piece of engineering" with the help of the then State engineer, Alkinson. Work on the road began in 1880 and was thrown open in 1892 when Maharaja Pratap Singh (son of Maharaja Ranbir Singh) was driven in a bullock cart to Domel. The road was a revolution. Within a year, imports touched Rs. 66.16 lakhs and exports Rs. 65.05 lakhs.

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