The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Border traffic hope for Wagah

Wagah, May 9: The Wagah border is waiting to be opened.

“From home to home. They have not crossed the border. They have entered the courtyard next door,” said a jubilant Nirmal Singh as the Pakistani parliamentary delegation arrived yesterday.

“In 1947, my family lost 12 members in the senseless carnage that came with Independence. Perhaps they were destined to die that way. But I am not angry. We are one people. What happened then is history. Sannu hun saddae baccheyan da sochna chaida hai (We should think about our children),” said the porter, whose livelihood dried up with the snapping of ties between the neighbours.

Nirmal is not alone. Tarlok Singh, sarpanch of Balaggnan village and head of the 1,305-strong union of porters from 65 villages, wants the border reopened. “While Wagah should be reopened immediately, the government should also consider using Hussainiwala as another route to lessen the traffic here,” he said.

Police constables and other security personnel could not agree more. “Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee says this is the last chance for lasting peace. He should strive for it and Pakistan should also realise that it is getting nowhere by stoking Kashmir,” a BSF jawan said.

If the flurry of activity at the crossing today is any indication, they might get their wish: Wagah might be opened soon to passenger traffic.

Though the border was closed to traffic after the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, some trade continued. A consignment of dry fruits arrived from Pakistan yesterday.

“It was down to small quantities of dry fruits, but it just about kept the home fires burning. Now we will have some work here after the Samjhauta Express and the bus service resumes,” a porter said.

Along with the trade in dry fruits, an exchange of letters also continued. Every day, an Indian Posts and Telegraph van drives up to the border and stands back to back on the zero line with a van from Pakistan.

The drivers help each other unload the letters and parcels. Yesterday, the daily ritual coincided with the entry of the Pakistani parliamentary delegation.

“There are whispers that a batch of Indian parliamentarians could cross over soon. If they do so with the Pakistani delegation on May 16, it would be a historic occasion,” the porter added.

Nearly four years ago, thousands had converged on either side of the border for another historic occasion: to watch Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee take the peace bus to Lahore. But that journey led to Kargil.

The hostilities since have been reflected at Wagah. Every day, as the sun goes down on the flat, green Punjab countryside, paramilitary guards on either side come nose to nose, bristling with threats and cheered by noisy, partisan crowds, in a flag-lowering ceremony at which they try to outdo each other in slamming their gates shut.

Nirmal and Tarlok and scores of others who live near the border at Wagah are hoping the gates will open for good.

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