Railways – Train between India and Pakistan

The Samjhauta Express (Hindi:समझौता एक्सप्रेसUrduسمجھوتا اکسپريس‎) commonly called theFriendship Express, is a twice-weekly train – Tuesdays and Fridays – that runs between Delhi and Attari in Indiaand Lahore in Pakistan. The wordsamjhauta means “agreement”,”accord” and “compromise” in both Hindi andUrdu.

Quick facts: Samjhauta Express, Overview …

Lahore Central Station, the Pakistani terminus of the train

Amritsar Railway Station, one of the stations of the train in India

Delhi Jn station, the teminus in India

Until the reopening of the Thar Express, this was the only rail connection between the two countries. The train was started on 22 July 1976 following the Shimla Agreement and ran betweenAmritsar and Lahore, a distance of about 42 km. Following disturbances in Punjab in the late eighties, due to security reasons Indian Railways decided to terminate the service at Attari, where customs and immigration clearances take place. On 14 April 2000, in an agreement between Indian Railways andPakistan Railways (PR), the distance was revised to cover just under three km.

It was a daily train when the service started, and changed to a bi-weekly schedule in 1994. Earlier the rakes were returned to the home country the same day but later in 2000 the rake remained overnight at that location.

Its termini are Lahore in Pakistan andDelhi in India. The border crossing takes place between Wagah in Pakistan andAttari in India. Originally, this was a through service with the same rakegoing all the way between the termini; later the Pakistani rake stopped at Attari at which point passengers had to change trains.

Now there is a train from Delhi to Attariwhere all passengers alight for customs and immigration. This train does not have any commercial stops between Delhi and Attari. It is incorrectly referred to as the Samjhauta Express and it is officially known as the Delhi-Attari or Attari-Delhi Express. The actual Samjhauta Express runs from Attari to Lahore, although the passengers are checked at Wagah, the first station on the Pakistani side. The train service was set up with an agreement betweenIndian Railways (IR) and Pakistan Railways (PR) to alternately use an Indian and a Pakistani rake and locomotive for the train, six months at a time.

The train usually has between four and eight coaches. The rake supplied by Pakistan is usually hauled by an Alco DL-543 class ALU20 diesel loco (Lahore shed), with the entire train in the standard dark green livery of PR.

The train’s first break of service was when it was discontinued on 1 January 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attackon the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. Service resumed on 15 January 2004. Service was also suspended following the 27 December 2007, assassination of Benazir Bhuttoas a preventive measure to deny militants a “high-value target” that was of great symbolic importance to both India and Pakistan.[1]

On 8 October 2012, police recovered about 100 kg of contraband heroin and more than 500 rounds of bullet ammunition at Wagah border on the train heading for Delhi.[2][3]

2007 bombing

In the early hours of 19 February 2007, sixty-eight people (mostly Pakistanicivilians and a few Indian military guarding the train) were killed and scores more injured in a terrorist attack on the Delhi – Attari Express.[4][5] The attack occurred at Diwana station near the Indian city of PanipatHaryana. Officials found evidence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and flammable material, including three unexploded IEDs. The National Investigation Agencyhas stated that the blasts were masterminded by Swami Aseemanand, a Hindu religious leader. Swami Aseemanand born as Jatin Chatterjee in West Bengal, joined the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, inspired by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1978.[6]

On 1 July 2009, the US Department of Treasury designated Arif Qasmani of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba as a person involved in terrorism, citing among other things his involvement in the Samjhauta Express bombing.[7]

On 30 December 2010, India’s National Investigation Agency claimed that they had solid evidence that Swami Aseemanand was the mastermind behind the blasts. He had roped in Sandeep Dange, an engineering graduate, and Ramji Kalsangra, an electrician, to build the improvised explosive devices used in the blasts.[6]On 8 January 2011, Aseemanand allegedly confessed the bombing of Samjhauta express,[8] a statement later found to be obtained under duress.[9]Later the Hindu nationalist group RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) sent a legal notice to CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) accusing it of deliberately leaking Swami Aseemanand’s confession in the media. RSS spokesman Ram Madavh called the investigation maligning of organizations and individuals.[10]

According to various local newspapers, NIA arrested Kamal Chauhan, who is deemed by the NIA as the main operative, in February 2012.

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