Mumbai: After being under the colonial rule for more than a century, at the midnight of August 15, 1947, the celebratory chants of freedom filled the air. But that night also echoed with the cries of millions, who were separated after the partition.
Nearly after 25 years, then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto signed the historic Shimla agreement which gave birth to the 'Samjhauta Express' to unite families on both sides of the border.
The train continued to carry emotions of millions for the last 40 years, only suspended briefly thrice.
It was suspended again on August 8, 2019 by Pakistan in retaliation to India's decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status as detailed in Article 370.
'Samjhauta', which means 'agreement', 'accord' and 'compromise' in both Hindi and Urdu, was also known as 'Peace Train'. The train began its operation from July 22, 1976.
The bi-weekly train runs from New Delhi to Attari, on the border and then on to Lahore in Pakistan. The vehicle comprises of six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach.
The originally proposed plan scheduled the 'Friendship Express' to run daily between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan).
The train departs from Old Delhi railway station by the name of Attari Express. When it reaches Attari in Punjab, passengers alight for customs and immigration and then as it embarks on its journey to Lahore in Pakistan via Wagah border, changing its name formally to the Samjhauta Express.
When 'Samjhauta Express' was suspended:
January 1, 2002: India broke the service in wake of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001.
October 8, 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.
February 28, 2019: The operations were suspended following the Pulwama terror attack that was carried out by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that killed more than 40 CRPF jawans on February 14. The series of action following the attack led to a dramatic standoff between India–Pakistan.
August 8, 2019: Pakistan suspended the operations of the four-decades-old train service in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 (A) by the BJP-led Central government that provided special rights and status to Jammu and Kashmir.