From chugging of a train to the letter that was withdrawn, writes Zahoor Malik
A number of people like the chugging of trains, particularly in Kashmir where only a few trains operate from Baramulla to Banihal on a track isolated from the mainline. For the last three years, the train service has remained affected for months together, first for law and order problems and then due to counter-Covid19 measures.
Because of the limited number of trains till now, the chugging of trains has not added to the noise pollution. The sound of moving trains is like music to many ears. To movie lovers, it reminds them of many popular iconic Bollywood songs shot in the background of trains.
Lines On Palm
One of them being from Subash Ghai’s film Vidhata. In this film, one of the characters played by Shammi Kapoor sings the song Hathoon Ki Chand Lakeeroon Ka, Sab Khael Hai Bas Taqdeeron Kaa. His friend in the movie, Dilip Kumar, the leader role, differs by singing Taqdeer Hai Kia, Maen kia Janoon, Maen Ashiq Hoon Tadbeeron Ka. The lyrics of the song showcased in detail the arguments of two characters on their respective belief on Taqdeer (fate) and Tadbeer (the plan).
Most people particularly youngsters might not have watched the Vidhata or listened to the song. They might also not have yet got an opportunity to travel on the train from Baramula to Banihal.
But a letter by a railway officer in the last week of July 2019 caught the attention of all here. The letter was written at a time here when panic had gripped the whole of Kashmir amid the arrival of a large number of troops and reports that something big was going to happen.
The letter asked employees to stock rations and take other steps due to the “forecast of the deteriorating situation” in Kashmir “for a long period”.
The letter was widely circulated on social media. This strengthened the perception on the ground that the government of India was going to take some unprecedented decisions on Articles 370 and 35 A. The letter indirectly dismissed some media speculations that India may carry strikes across the LoC. Due to panic, people had started stocking essentials. There was a huge rush on petrol pumps and banks as well.
The authorities later withdrew the railway officer’s letter saying it had no basis and that the official was not authorised to write the letter. He was actually transferred back to the plains.
A Panic Surge
However, the move could not end the panic as more and more troops kept on arriving with every passing day. National Conference leaders flew to New Delhi and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They said they told Modi that the special status should not be touched and that he assured them that the deployment is being made to strengthen the security grid.
Back in Srinagar the NC leadership along with other mainstream leaders including Mehbooba Mufti, Sajjad Lone and others met the then governor Satyapal Malik. They reiterated that no move should be made to weaken the special status. The governor assured them that nothing is going to happen and appealed to them to be calm. But the same night, during a television interaction Malik dropped a hint by saying nothing will be done secretly and that if anything happens, it will happen through parliament.
On August 5, 2019, in parliament, the Government of India read down the special status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre amended Article 370, revoked Article 35A, and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. And thus began the months-long curfew and snapping of telephone and internet services. Cable TV operations were suspended. And rest is history.
It took months together for the rail service to resume. Thousands of people particularly employees restarted the travel with a sigh of relief. Over the years the train travel has helped the commuters to save time because of frequent traffic jams or halting of civilian traffic during the movement of army convoys on the national highway from Baramulla to Banihal.
While Kashmir was completely back to normal months after the special status was gone, Covid19 disrupted the train again for several months last year and this year too. It is only some time back that the chugging of the train is back. Hopefully, it continues without further disruption.
The non-completion of the rail project from Udhampur to Banihal is delaying the operation of trains from Kashmir to the rest of India.
While Bollywood has shot songs and scenes in almost all important scenic Kashmir locations, they are yet to shoot on a train in Kashmir. The film crews had stopped coming to Kashmir after the eruption of militancy in 1990. The shootings resumed on a small scale after 1996.
It is to be seen when exactly the arrival of film units for shooting will gain momentum here if it really happens. More particularly they can have a shot of moving trains in picturesque locations here as well. They can shoot romantic songs with a train in the background like that of Meray Sapnoon Ki Raani Kab Aayay Gee Tou. Or they can shot songs having lyrics similar to that of Taqdeer and Tadbeer in Vidhata as Kashmir history too seems caught in the philosophical argument over the two words.