‘Biggest gift’: Residents along LoC in J&K welcome India-Pakistan ceasefire
- A resident in a village along the LoC said that dozens of families had migrated from villages as they wanted to escape from the daily shelling
Thousands of people living along the Line of Control in north Kashmir’s small hamlets are relieved after the director general of military operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan decided on a ceasefire along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
On Thursday, India and Pakistan agreed to observe a strict ceasefire along the LoC from February 24 midnight. A joint statement issued by the armies of both countries said the move followed a discussion between India’s director general of military operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Paramjit Singh Sangha and his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Nauman Zakaria over their established telephone hotline. For the last several months, there has been a surge in ceasefire violations along the LoC both in Jammu and in Kashmir regions.
"This is not the first time a ceasefire was announced on the LoC. For us it’s always good because we know what ceasefire means to us. We can live peacefully in our villages along with our children," said Irshad Ahmad Khawja who lives at village Garkote on the LoC.
He said that from the last several months, the residents living along the LoC had only one demand, construction of underground bunkers. "The bunkers were our only safety shield during the cross LoC shelling and many people even started building bunkers on their own. And if the ceasefire was implemented again we won’t need the bunkers."
He claimed in the last two years, dozens of houses were destroyed in Uri and six people were killed in the cross LoC shelling alone in the villages.
"In our neighbouring village Balkote, a young woman was killed in November when shells hit her house leaving her four children orphaned," said Khawja.
Another resident, Ajaz Ahmad Shah of village Silikote on the zero line, said for them, the ceasefire means new lease of life. "Dozens of families migrated from our villages as they wanted to escape from the daily shelling. We now hope people will return." Shah said he lost his cousin when a shell landed on her house in a neighbouring village last year in November. "Whenever there is shelling, we always start thinking it is going to be the end of our lives. We have been living a miserable life and now, we want peace to prevail."
Since 2003, when India and Pakistan agreed on the ceasefire along the LoC, which remained successful till 2017, the people living in the bordering areas reaped the dividends. "During the ceasefire years, the villagers even used to harvest right up to the LoC. We used to have peaceful sleep all those years," said Bilal Ahmad of Izmerg village near LoC in Gurez in northern Bandipora district. Gurez witnessed a lot of cross LoC shelling last year. "We are hopeful that this ceasefire will be successful like the previous one, announced in 2003."
Mohammad Sayed Peerzada, a resident of Tangdhar in border Kupwara district said that since the last two years, there has been an increase in the intensity of shelling in the region..." The shelling had become a routine, especially in the villages close to LoC. In Kupwara district, half a dozen civilians were killed and houses damaged. We are happy the ceasefire between India and Pakistan will restore peace and people can live peacefully," he said, adding that in the last three decades, people living close to LoC have lived very tough lives. "Now we want to live peacefully and it will be only possible when India and Pakistan abide by truce." He said the earlier truce on the LoC and the borders saw reopening of many routes between India and Pakistan... "Hope this ceasefire will be followed by reopening of routes between the two parts of Kashmir and other peace initiatives."
Also Read: 'Not sedition to have views different from govt': SC junks plea against Abdullah
There are some, however, who were not much hopeful of the ceasefire lasting long. "Our experience tells us that these initiatives don’t last long," said Aftab Ahmad from Kupwara. "If it is successful this time, it will be the biggest gift to the border residents of the two countries."
Last month, the ministry of defence, while replying to a question in parliament, said that Pakistan resorted to 5133 incidents of ceasefire violations in 2020 and there were 46 casualties last year due to these violations.
Recently, outgoing 15 Corps commander, Lt General B S Raju told media persons that efforts will be made to make this ceasefire successful and termed the year 2020 as the most peaceful year.