Ceasefire has brought sense of
Chakothi, November 26
The significance of the day could not have been lost on both sides of the divide. It was on this day last year that India ordered unilateral ceasefire and Pakistan responded in equal measure. For the last one year, people on both sides of the LoC have lived peacefully with only memories of the harrowing time they had when the guns boomed from both the Indian and Pakistani posts.
The day was significant for another reason too. It was the first time in the history of the subcontinent that a country allowed journalists of another country to visit a forward post and see for themselves the actual situation on the Line of Control.
From the checkpost, we saw a concrete bridge which was destroyed in one of the India-Pakistan wars. Now a footbridge exists there but it too has not been used for a long time. If the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service becomes a reality, the bridge would be reconstructed for the purpose.
Major-General Shaukat Sultan, who received a group of Indian journalists visiting “Azad Kashmir” under the auspices of the South Asian Free Media Association at the Chakothi checkpost, said if the Army was given the job of reconstruction, it could make the road motorable within 24 hours.
He said the ceasefire had done a lot of good to the people living on this side of the LoC. From 1999 to 2003, as many as 416 civilians were killed in the gunfire from across the border. Because of periodic shelling, thousands of people living in and around Chakoti were compelled to flee from the area. Some of them have started coming back. He claimed that the Pakistani army never targeted civilians.
From the checkpost, the Major-General showed us the four layers of checks on the Indian side which would make infiltration almost impossible. India also built a fence which was against the Karachi agreement which prevented any defence-related construction within 500 metres of the LoC. “Yet, if India says the Pakistanis are infiltrating into India through the LoC, it means either the Pakistanis are supernatural or the Indian forces are sleeping.”
There is nothing on the ground to mark the LoC, which is 767 km long. Rivers, forests, valleys and hills constitute the LoC, the altitude of which varies from 1000 to 18,000 feet.
At the Chakothi Government Senior Secondary School which was badly damaged by the Indian shelling, one of the teachers recalled May 18, 2002, when the shells began to fall on the school: “The school assembly was on when the shelling started. The students ran helter-skelter. Fortunately, no student was killed in the “attack.”
The ceasefire has brought a sense of security among the people here. They want it to continue at any cost. They are also enthused by the reports that a bus service would soon link Muzaffarabad with Srinagar. They want an early settlement of the Kashmir issue so that they could lead a peaceful life.