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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
'My own flesh and blood' - Kashmiris unite

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, from near Kashmir's Line of Control to Srinagar

Syed Tariq Hussain meets his nieces - for the first time
Syed Tariq Hussain meets his nieces - for the first time

As the passengers on the first bus from Pakistani-administered Kashmir arrived in Indian-controlled territory, many were starting a journey into the past.

Syed Tariq Hussain was only 13 when he left his home town of Srinagar, now the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, in 1950.

Over the years, Pakistan became his home and he became a distinguished judge in Lahore.

"But I never, ever forgot my home," he said, his voice wavering, as he was greeted at Salamabad, just 10km from the Line of Control.

"I remember every corner, every street, every little detail of my hometown," he added.

But a lot has changed since he had left, including the birth of his two nieces.

They were on hand to greet him when he arrived and Mr Hussain broke down as he embraced them.

"I have never set eyes on them before.

"Yet they are my own flesh and blood."

Wildly cheered

For the 30 passengers on board the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus, it was an overwhelmingly emotional moment.

Many of them were overcome as they were wildly cheered as their bus drove past.

They are our honoured guests, our brothers and sisters from across [the Line of Control]
Shugufta, Kashmiri woman

Along the entire 160km route from the Line of Control that divides Kashmir to Srinagar - at every village and every town - thousands of people lined the road.

They clapped and cheered, whistled and sang.

Some of them had been waiting for several hours, on a cold, wet day.

"I just wanted to be here," said Shugufta, one of the many women who had braved the weather.

"It's a special day and I wanted to be a part of it. They are our honoured guests, our brothers and sisters from across [the Line of Control].

"I want to welcome them personally."

Separatists' strike

Security was intense as the bus rolled on, with soldiers taking up positions on top of houses and hills overlooking the highway.

The entire road was cleared of all traffic.

But it did little to curb the enthusiasm.

An emotional reunion in Srinagar
An emotional reunion in Srinagar

In the town of Pattan, soldiers looked on as hundreds of villagers cheered loudly even as darkness set in.

Some young boys clambered on top of a mosque for a better view.

As the convoy of some 35 vehicles, including the two buses with the passengers from Muzaffarabad, rolled into Srinagar, they were greeted by a city in darkness.

Shops and businesses stayed shut in response to a strike called by separatists opposed to the bus.

Despite the protest, however, groups of people gathered in the darkness to welcome the bus.

At Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir convention centre, on the edge of the city's famous Dal Lake, officials and bureaucrats were on hand to greet the visitors.

But it was also a special moment for Shah Ahmed from Muzaffarabad.

Among those waiting to greet him was his brother who he had not met for 35 years.

As they embraced and wept, Mr Ahmed said he could not believe his eyes.

"I have waited so long for this moment.

"Thank you Pervez Musharraf. Thank you Manmohan Singh. You have united a family today."

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