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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Webcast brings families together
Participant in Kashmir webcast
Families kept apart for decades were able to see each other for the first time
There were tears of joy on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on Monday as the BBC brought together families divided by conflict.

In the first initiative of its kind, the BBC established a webcam allowing families to communicate with their loved ones for the first time in years.

The hour-long video and satellite-phone link is between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad.

The webcast is live on Tuesday and Wednesday on BBCUrdu.com from 1100GMT.

Long lost daughter

The BBC's Altaf Hussain says there were tears of emotion at the BBC's studio in Srinagar on Monday.

Rehana Masudi broke down when she was able to see and speak to her sister, Abida Masudi, on the Pakistani side.

Participant in Kashmir webcast
There were tears of emotion at BBC offices in Srinagar and Muzzafarabad

Rehan was accompanied by her mother who was equally emotional on seeing her long lost daughter.

The family have not met for the past 20 years.

The webcast will continue until Wednesday and, in all, six families will speak to their relatives on either side of the LoC.

The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and since the partition of India has separated many people from their kith and kin.

"It was a mixture of joy, excitement and plenty of pain to see my sister after such a long time," said Rehana.

"It was all the more so for my mother and father."

Her father, who is around 80-years-old, thanked the BBC profusely after the programme, saying it was a debt he could never repay.

Rehana said the webcast fulfilled a dream that began when rumours emerged recently of the re-opening of a Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road.

"But I think this road will never open," she said.

I wish and pray that our families and region may be united again
Afzal, Giessen, Germany

The Indian government withdrew the facility of direct dialling to Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir from Srinagar on the outbreak of an armed separatist campaign 14 years ago.

The video-conferencing was arranged by the BBC through satellite telephone.

The idea is the brainchild of BBC Urdu Online's Mirza Waheed who says he came up with video-conferencing after he had seen large numbers of people gathering on two sides of the LoC to see and wave at each other.

Such meetings became possible only after India and Pakistan declared a ceasefire along the LoC last November which is still holding.

The LoC, earlier known as cease-fire line, came into being after the UN Security council brokered a suspension of war between India and Pakistan in January 1949.

The two countries have fought more wars since.

And Kashmir continues to be a flashpoint between the two neighbours who have since attained nuclear capability.



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