April 20: One Kashmir is at ease, another is on edge.
As the Kashmir buses rev up for the second peace journey tomorrow, the contrasting postures in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad could not have been starker.
An air of cautious optimism hung heavy at the starting point of the bus in Muzaffarabad with officials forthcoming on all details except the names of the prospective passengers. 'The second bus will roll out as scheduled,' a police officer said.
Fourteen of the 19 passengers who left Srinagar will take the second bus from Muzaffarabad. It will also have 11 first-time passengers to Srinagar.
The picture was markedly different in Srinagar, chastened after indiscreet disclosures helped militants trace and attack the passengers' safe house on the eve of the debut run.
So thick a security blanket has been thrown over the bus service in Srinagar that officials will not even confirm whether the bus will start from the state capital or elsewhere.
Rumours were rife that the bus could leave from Salamabad in Baramulla and travel just 3 km up to Kaman Bridge, where the passengers would disembark to cross over.
Highly-placed sources said tonight that the bus would start from Srinagar itself but did not want their names to be associated with the information that would in the normal course be considered routine.
Some of those who had enrolled for the trip have developed cold feet because of threats by militants. 'In light of the threats, we have decided not to board the bus. It is a personal decision and it has nothing to do with politics,' said Farida Afzal, a Srinagar resident.
Of the 32 passengers cleared, 18 have vowed to go ahead till this evening. But sources in Delhi said 28 passengers and five returning to Muzaffarabad would board the bus tomorrow.