Kashmiris exchange greetings across Neelum River
1 December 2003
The News International
KARIN: Kashmiris separated by years of conflict between Pakistan and India gathered on either bank of the rushing Neelum River on Monday, shouting greetings to long-separated relatives and hurling letters wrapped around stones across the boundary line.The spectacle would have been unthinkable before a ceasefire announced last week. Hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani forces are faced off along the tense Line of Control, and shelling has taken a deadly toll on residents.But on Monday, hundreds flocked to the 30-meter wide river, which separates Azad and held Kashmir, to catch sight of loved ones on the opposite bank. Roads leading to the river have been closed for years because of intense shelling between the two armies.'Now I can cry out to them, and gesture to them, but it's very unnatural,' said Raja Azhar Khan, 60, as he waved across the water at his two younger brothers. Standing on the rocky river bank, relatives threw gifts of cigarettes, biscuits, candy and even Kashmiri coconuts across the water, gesturing wildly and bellowing to make themselves heard in the mountain-ringed valley. Some raised their hands in prayer, wishing others good health. The separated families shared good news and bad.