The Jammu and Kashmir government is planning to run a heritage train in order to promote border tourism in Jammu and attract a large number of Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims. The heritage train can run from Bikram Chowk in Jammu city to Suchetgarh via RS Pura on the historical route on which once train used to run from Jammu to Lahore via Sialkot (Now in Pakistan).
Sialkot used to be the last town when the train ran just 11 km away from Suchetgarh. This heritage train will work on the same route of Shimla-Kalka in Himachal Pradesh in which hundreds of tourists visit daily and then return. If everything goes according to the plan of the UT Government, then people of Jammu and tourists will be able to enjoy a ride in the heritage train to see the border. The proposed train will pass through green fields in the most fertile and plain land which is also well-known for top quality Basmati rice production in India.
During the royal period, Jammu Kashmir had one of the oldest rail networks in the nation. In 1880s, the then King Maharaja Pratap Singh is contributed for bringing the rail network to the state from Sialkot to Jammu to connect the city and the State with Lahore, the then capital of Punjab.
Girdhari Lal, 91, said that before the nation was partitioned, the main trading centers in the area were Jammu, Sialkot and Lahore. Pathankot did not much importance in itself, and it gained importance only after the train reached Pathankot on Delhi-Jallandhar route.
However, few people who live on the old track route are protesting as they have fears that their home will be uprooted. They settle their after migrating from Pakistan to Jammu during partition of the country and constructed their houses on the track. Bharat Chowdhary, who is one of these people, said that their ancestors had tasted the fruit of migration. People are apprehensive that government will take over their land from them for laying new track for the heritage train.
Another person from the group, Mukesh Singh, said that they were allotted land by the State Government as refugees to build houses and settle. If the government doesn’t listen to their problem then they’ll have to start agitation.