Kashmir gets on track

More than 100 years after Kashmir was promised a rail link, the dream finally got on track , as PM Manmohan Singh flagged off the first train connecting Srinagar with Rajwanshar in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Although the track on which the inaugural run was made was a mere 66 km and the train had just 8 coaches, the significance and symbolism of the flag off goes much farther. The train will not only shrink distances in the Valley and eventually connect it to Jammu, it will give Kashmiris an emblem of pride which the government hopes will dull the sharp feelings of central neglect.Kashmir was promised a rail link by Maharaja Pratap Singh, the region’s Dogra ruler in 1892. The British took up that promise but never delivered and then independent India’s governments struggled to make it happen. Strife and terrorism came in the way and the challenge of boring through weak mountains and bridging huge crevasses stalled the project several times. The 117-kilometre rail link will connect Baramulla in the north with Qazigund in the south and, eventually, be integrated into the national network. For the moment, only a 66-km stretch was opened and the remaining will be ready next year. The inauguration at Srinagar’s Nowgam station was a thrilling event for Indian Railways. Northern railway’s chief administrative officer, R K Gupta, said: “It’s a historic day.”

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