J-K border residents heave sigh of relief week after India-Pakistan agreement on ceasefire

Kamalkote (JK):A week after the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control, residents along the border have heaved a sigh of relief and hoped it is followed in letter and spirit without any violations.

India and Pakistan had announced on February 25 that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.

In Sarai Bandi village in Kamalkote sector in Uri area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, about three kilometres from the LoC, the residents are happy about the call taken by the director-general of military operations of both the countries.

The village suffered the brunt of the firing by the Pakistani side on November 13 last year when six civilians were killed and several others injured. Many residential houses suffered the damage.

Karamat Hussain, 83, lost his 45-year-old son Irshad Ahmad that day. Father of six children – four girls and two boys – Ahmad had gone to a government store to get ration for the family.

“He was hit by a shell and he died on the spot,” Hussain said.

Often in the line of fire of the aggression of the two countries, the villagers expressed hope the ceasefire is followed in letter and spirit without any violations.

“We celebrated (the news). It is like awakening from a deep slumber. We were happy to know there is going to be a ceasefire. We have been sleeping with peace since then and we hope it continues and there is no violation,” Hussain, who has himself been injured in the firing, said.

Syed Muneer, 43, whose brother, Nader Hussain, 45, lost both his legs in the shelling that day, said the family has been struggling to cope up with the incident.

“My brother was in hospital for a long time. There was no support from the government, except for the Rs 40,000 from the Red Cross fund. He survived, but he cannot support his family,” he said.

Muneer said the ceasefire has brought hopes to the people and the decision has come as a sigh of relief.

“We can live a normal life. Our children can go to school without any fear. We feel at ease and at least there is no fear (of the shelling) right now. We want peace and calm. We want both the countries to talk to each other to resolve the issues,” he said.

Qazi Mohammad Sheikh, a local socio-political worker, also welcomed the agreement, saying it was a good step.

“We hope it continues. Our situation is very sensitive. People want peace, we do not want war. We want both the countries to talk about peace, we request them to maintain peace. We have suffered always and we want peace now. We want to live our life normally and peacefully,” he said.

While the locals appreciated the role of the Army, they lamented the lackadaisical approach of the government.

Apart from the “little” help by the government to the victims of the ceasefire violations, the biggest issue, and the demand, in the villages near the LoC is the construction of bunkers.

The villagers said the government has constructed only one bunker to cater to the population of about 25,000 people.

“For the last so many years, we have been demanding that bunkers be constructed, be it individual bunkers or community bunkers. But, the demands have not been met. The population of about a dozen villages near the LoC is around 20-25,000. We only have one bunker,” Sheikh said.

The bunker near a government-run school, which has been constructed by the Rural Development Department and is primarily meant for schoolchildren, is a 24 by 18 feet structure with a single ventilation shaft.

The locals alleged that the government apathy can be judged from the fact that the contractor has not been paid his dues yet.

“This bunker is meant for a population of about 25,000. How can only one bunker cater to all of us? The government should think about it,” Sheikh said.

One of the senior Army officers in the area said while the construction of bunkers was the responsibility of the government, the Army was ready for any support.

He also said the issue would be taken up at the appropriate level.

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