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India-Pakistan; Suspects
In Each Others Eyes

By Syed Junaid Hashmi

04 July, 2007
Countercurrents.org


Every word said was being tapped, individuals were being screened, every face was being photographed and numerous cameras from both sides were zooming in to record the ceremonial meeting of Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) and Pakistani Rangers at the International Border (IB). The occasion was mela Chamliyal yet it appeared as if it was an official meeting of border guards of both sides.

Movement had been restricted at the Zero Line along the International Border (IB) where the two sides met to exchange pleasantries. Families of officers and a few locals represented the two sides. One could have a glimpse of devotees, who had gathered in huge numbers to celebrate annual fair on the other side of IB but with prevailing atmosphere of disbelief, moving an inch from the Zero Line appeared difficult.

Inside the camp, every word was being over-heard. The families from both the sides who were part of the ceremonial function failed to interact with each other. Locals kept looking at each other's faces but could not exchange even a few words with each other. They remained mum. Those who spoke sought increase in people to people contacts while most others demanded a meeting place for divided families on IB.

Ironically, even this was being over-heard. An interaction with children from Pakistan was interrupted twice, once by an eavesdropping Jawan of BSF and the other time by an official video camera. Another interaction with an officer of Pakistan Rangers was stopped midway by an officer of the Border Security Forces (BSF) stating that senior officers have already talked a lot about the mela.

"You can develop a special story from the shrine itself, let the officers relax," remarked the officer. Children from both sides who had been allowed to come to Zero Line kept looking at each other waiting for an opening to intermingle with each other but they did not happen. A child from the Indian side while looking at the Pakistani children said " Yeh Bachey to hum sey milney aaye hain, phir kyon nahin miltey (These children have come to meet us, then why they are not meeting).

Outside the tent of the border security forces, at the place where Pakistani rangers had parked kept their vehicles, a man standing guard stopped everyone trying to get close to the vehicles. " Yeh hamarey officer shahibaan ki gadian hain, hamein hokum hai ki hum kisiko bhi inkey paas Na aaney dein (These are vehicles of our officers, we have been ordered not to allow anybody to come close to these vehicles ), a Jawan of the Pakistani Rangers told one and all whosoever tried to get close to the vehicles.

When this correspondent tried to converse with a man in plain clothes standing close to the vehicles of the Pakistani officers, he said "Aap logon ka koi bharosa nahin, mujhey apna I-card dekhao phir mein baat karoon gaa (You people cannot be trusted, show me your I-Card then I will talk). When he was shown the I-card, he again refused stating " Yeh I-Card Nakli Hai (This card is fake). He went on to say "Agar aap akhbar sye ho to mela kye barey mein pooch, gadi KO kya karma hai aap Ney (If you are from a newspaper then ask about the fair, what have you to do with the vehicle).

Mistrust was apparent despite the fact that both India and Pakistan have been talking since the last five years about making boundaries irrelevant. When the ceremony culminated, a Jawan standing along with an officer on the gate would allow only those people to cross on this side who possessed a Valid I-Card signifying that he belongs to this side of Jammu and Kashmir.

A journalist from Punjab who has been working in Jammu was stopped for I-Card which he was not carrying with him. He was allowed to cross over only after another reporter from Jammu told the officials that he is a journalist and has forgotten his I-card. "In Jammu and Kashmir if these meeting points become grounds of suspicion and distrust, then it is better to keep off from this annual ritual," said the journalist from Punjab.

"A joint mechanism on terror has been formed, bus service has been started, Rail services have become operational and people to people contacts have increased yet mistrust, suspicion, skepticism have become a part of such ceremonial meetings between India and Pakistan," said Senior leader of People's Democratic Party Nizamuddin Bhat. He added that these points could become points of emotional integration and help in strengthening the bond of love and liking between the people on the two sides.

Writer is a Journalist, presently working with jammu and kashmir's reputed english daily "The Kashmir Times". He can be reached at syedjunaidhashmi@gmail.com


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