NEW DELHI, India Wearing a shimmering "kameez," or shirt and with her hands freshly painted with henna, Shakeela had planned to attend her brother's wedding, here in India. But instead, she boarded a train home Sunday to Pakistan the last one before India cut off transport to Pakistan.
"I've been in India only for four days. My brother's wedding is tomorrow, but here I am catching a train back," a teary Bano said at the train station, clinging to her brother. "It's been such a waste."
Theirs is one of many South Asian families with roots and ties in both South Asian countries, which were divided into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India following independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
An unidentified family bid farewell to their Pakistani relatives as the last train for Pakistan leaves from Delhi's main railroad station amid tearful goodbyes, New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2001. Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated following a Dec. 13 attack on India's Parliament that New Delhi blames on militant groups back by Islamabad. Pakistan denies the charge. In addition to fortifying the border with troops and weapons, India announced plans to sever road and rail links withPakistan starting Jan. 1. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Tensions between the rivals have escalated following a Dec. 13 attack on India's Parliament that New Delhi blames on militant groups back by Islamabad. Pakistan denies the charge.
In addition to fortifying the border with troops and weapons, India announced plans to sever road and rail links with Pakistan starting Jan. 1.
As the deadline neared, Pakistanis scrambled to book tickets on the last of the twice-weekly trains from New Delhi to Attari on the Indian side of the India-Pakistan border. From Attari, the passengers cross over to Pakistan.
Anxious Pakistanis crowded the railroad platform at New Delhi's main station Sunday, hours before the train was due to leave.
Many, like Bano, had traveled to India to meet relatives or attend weddings, but have been forced to cut short their stay to return before rail and bus services come to a halt. It was unclear when New Delhi would re-establish transport links.
"Both governments are to be blamed," Bano said angrily. "Why don't they ask the people? No one wants a war."
The disruption of plans was particularly painful for the elderly. Many were born and raised in India before opting to live in Pakistan.
"This is my first visit to India in 55 years. My eyes have not had their fill of my relatives, my schoolmates, my childhood haunts ... and I've had to leave," said Bachumal Ahmed, his eyes filling with tears.
The 75-year old shopkeeper from Karachi in southern Pakistan fished out his passport to show his visa, which is valid for another three months.
"What good is this if we can't stay?" he said with resignation.
As the train entered the station, people scrambled to get on the coaches. Women and children were pushed aside as the men climbed in to find their seats before climbing out again to haul in their luggage and let the women and children enter.
Railroad authorities were letting people travel even without confirmed tickets on the last train out of New Delhi, an official said.
The train would be stopping at four more towns and picking up more passengers as it passed through the neighboring northern Indian states of Haryana and Punjab during its 10-hour journey to Attari.
Many heartrending goodbyes were said up and down the length of the platform.
"This shouldn't have happened. Only ordinary people suffer when leaders talk of war," said Shoaib Abdullah, a car mechanic from Rawalpindi in Pakistan, who was visiting cousins near New Delhi.
"We never imagined things would turn so bad so soon. Let's hope they improve just as quickly," he said, sharing a last cup of tea with his uncle. Many gray heads nodded in agreement.
"This hatred is too expensive both for India and for Pakistan," Abdullah said as the train slowly edged out of the station.
© 2001 The Associated Press