Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

Kashmiris call for end to Indo-Pak divide

Mughlia Begum was just 18 when partition shook the sub-continent on August 14, 1947. In the bloody turmoil, she lost her father Abdul Aziz, who worked in Peshawar as a cook.

Unable to reach the Indian side of the fractured state of Kashmir, he stayed put in the new Muslim nation of Pakistan and remarried, while still trying to return to visit the other wife and four daughters left behind.

Abdul Aziz never made it back.

"It was a telegram that informed us of Aziz's death," says Begum's daughter-in-law Hafiza Nazir, who received the message in 1980.

"It reached us two months after his death and devastated us."

Kashmir is awash with stories of families and friends butchered or lost in the frenzy of one of the largest migrations in history -- and many from the Indian half of the state now say such tales are better left in the past.

For the last three years, the guns have gone silent on the heavily-armed Line of Control (LoC) that divides the Himalayan outpost between India and Pakistan.

New Delhi and Islamabad have re-established bus and other links to unite divided families as part of an effort to make the de facto border "irrelevant", in the words of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Begum says that after 60 years, it is an idea whose time has come.

"Take it from me, this LoC will not be there. People will dismantle it like the German (Berlin) wall," she told AFP at her cozy house in Indian Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

"I know the real pain of partition. I was angry with my father for having left us alone but later I came to know he wanted to return but failed," Begum says as she wipes away tears with her white headscarf.