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Roads, girls mark divide

New Delhi, July 16: Intelligence agencies of the Centre have carried out a survey on perceptions of Kashmiris who have travelled by bus between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.

In a bland report, copies of which have been circulated among agencies of the security establishment, the study has said on the whole, the people of Kashmir from both sides of the Line of Control were enthused with the bus service and would welcome the opening of more routes for regular transport of people and goods.

But an upswing in violence this week has put the 20-month peace process and ceasefire along the Line of Control to test.

Highly-placed sources said the military operations directorate had been asked to analyse the nature of the violence and prepare a brief for political leaders by early next week. A glimpse into the brief may be available on Monday in a presentation by army chief General Joginder Jaswant Singh.

The word from the Prime Ministerís Office to the security establishment is that the situation must not be allowed to escalate in a manner that will discredit the peace process. The preliminary feedback on the understanding in the army headquarters is that Pakistan-based backers of militants in Jammu and Kashmir were instructing militant outfits to reactivate units before the peace process is institutionalised by such measures as the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

The survey of passengers from the Indian side of the LoC who travelled to Muzaffarabad and had returned concluded that most people found Muzaffarabad better developed economically. They said, the report has noted, that roads were better in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and there also appeared to be a better return on trade.

Passengers from PoK who travelled to Srinagar by the bus were largely surprised by the lack of adequate infrastructure but were impressed by the presence of women on the streets. They were impressed that girls were attending schools and colleges in large numbers.

Many of the passengers were reported to have said the level of violence in Kashmir was exaggerated in the media and in the diplomatic tussles between India and Pakistan.

The report is being studied and analysed in the Union home and defence ministries.

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