Villagers near LoC in J-K ecstatic as Indo-Pak ceasefire enters third year
The border villagers are enjoying peace along the borders by going for normal activities like tending their land and grazing their cattle without the fear of cross-border shelling.
The villagers said they are praying for continuation of the agreement so that the schooling of their children is not affected and benefits of developmental activities reach the last village on the border.
On February 25, 2021, India and Pakistan announced implementation of renewed ceasefire along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir, which came as a major relief to the people living along the LoC and the International Border. India and Pakistan had initially signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, but Pakistan frequently violated the agreement with over 5,000 violations reported in 2020 the highest in a single year.
“For the last four years, my family was thinking of constructing a new house but we were not able to do this as ceasefire violation was a regular scene in our village,” Kohli’s elder son Ibrar Ahmd, a college student, told PTI at the construction site in his Niaka village which is close to the LoC.
He said even repairing houses damaged due to shelling was a distant dream as venturing out of the house was like going into the death trap.
“No mason or labourer used to come for work in our village. But things have changed now and we are living our lives in a calm atmosphere with everyone busy in their normal routine,” he said.
Niaka is the last village on the Indian side in Tarkundi sector of Manjakote tehsil and was witness of intense shelling before February 2021. Two women of the village died when a mortar shell from Pakistan hit their houses in the village in 2017.
Mohammad Nazir (41), another villager, said it was their dream to live a dignified life, where there is no threat of shelling and firing, children attend their school and farmers work in their fields without any threat to their lives.
“In those times, we were not even able to sleep inside our homes,” he said.
Nazir said the government needs to focus more on the border villages to undertake developmental activities to ensure basic facilities, including potable water, good roads and electricity.
“The residents of Ratti Mitti, Chiti Bakri, Niaka, Chamba, Panjgrian, Peryali and others are economically weaker and are facing a lack of basic amenities, including good schools and health centres, which are just for the namesake,” he said.
Farooq Ahmad, a farmer, said silence of guns on the LoC came as a big relief for them and they are moving around, tending their fields and grazing cattle without any tension.
“The ceasefire should last forever. There is nothing like a peaceful atmosphere,” he said.
Mohammad Yousif, a social activist, said things have improved to a major extent due to the ceasefire in the last two years and everyone in the area wants this peace pact to continue.
“Only we know the hardships of cross-border shelling. No outsider can even imagine the life in those nightmare days,” he said, recounting the horror when people were forced to spend several days inside their houses due to heavy shelling.
“We have struggled to live and are fortunate enough that no bullet or mortar shell brought our death despite dozens of shells falling very close to our houses,” he said, pointing that there are no houses in the village without a splinter mark.