Kashmiris: Sitting Ducks in World’s Deadliest Game of ‘Target Practice’

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Kainaat Mushtaq

KL NEWS NETWORK 

BALAKOTE

Frightened! (KL Images courtesy: Meha Dixit)

Frightened! (KL Images courtesy: Meha Dixit)

There was a “whoosh” followed by ear-splitting explosions near Kashmir frontier. Shells fired by Pakistani troops explode with a roar. Villagers run for cover, fear hangs in the air, thick with the smell of cordite.

Seconds later, Indian troops whip the camouflage netting off their field guns, load, and return fire.

Flying shrapnels, pierce vital organs of poor villagers. At least 10 people were killed on both sides of Kashmir in recent artillery duel between India and Pakistan. Dozens were hurt or maimed.

The people living across Line of Control (LoC) are sitting ducks in the world’s deadliest game of target practice.

“We are not sitting ducks. I want to tell them (India, Pakistan) we, too, are human beings,” whispers Abdul Hamid, a 50-year-old teacher, pointing towards the grave of his younger brother near his damaged home. Hamid’s brother was killed recently when a mortar shell hit his house.

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It is a game of roulette in which one never knows which shell will land close enough to kill or maim.

Skirmishes between two neighbouring armies are common in the dry summer months.

But this year’s shooting was a new and frightening experience for the mainly villagers along the LoC that divides Kashmir and the armies of India and Pakistan.

“We haven’t lived a peaceful life for decades, said Rashida Begum,

58-year-old widow as ground-shaking artillery exchange continues across the Kashmir frontier and around the village nestled in Pine forests.

“Every time we start eating food here’s that whistling sound again, and we run for cover.”

Gaping holes, roofs turned into colanders by shrapnel, and blackened craters dotting the fields testify to the ferocity of the gunners.

“There is no let-up in shelling this year. Every day dozens of shells land in here. We are helpless – we cannot stop them,” complains Yusuf Dar, pointing to a nearby mountain where Pakistani forces are dug in.

India-Pakistan peace talks collapsed last week. Shelling across the de-facto border has been on the rise this since, killing or maiming dozens.

Stimson’s South Asia and Space Security has issued a report ‘Growing Violence along the Kashmir Divide’ on the frequent skirmishes between the two nuclear armed neighbours.

NEWS reaches the Line of Control (LoC).

NEWS reaches the Line of Control (LoC).

“The number of ceasefire violations along the India-Pakistan border has accelerated since 2012. This development has its roots in New Delhi’s and Islamabad’s faltering diplomatic efforts, particularly when it comes to nuclear-risk reduction measures,” warns report.

It adds violence along the Line of Control could complicate crisis management and increase the risk of a conflict with nuclear dimensions.

“I pray sanity prevails in both countries, India and Pakistan, so that we can live peacefully,” says villager Abdul Aziz.

As the sun sets, two more shells slam into the town.

One hits a tree, the other leaves a huge crater in a rough road. Terrified people in the village run for cover. Screams and cries echo in village.

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