December 2003 News

Guns Fall Silent, Chowki Opens

7 December 2003
The Indian Express

Teetwal, Kupwara: SI Abdul Gani Payer's stride gained pace while approaching the giant Pakistani bunker, a stone's throw away. Heart in his mouth, he waved at the two Pakistani Armymen who were looking through binoculars. A moment later, they returned the wave. An emboldened Payer ordered his sentries on. It was a feat Payer's predecessors could brag about - walking in uniform on the otherwise vulnerable ridgeline of the gurgling Kishenganga that separates India and Pakistan. To be precise, the exchange of waves between Teetwal here and Chilhana there could have been a possibility 14 winters ago. But not till Id when Pakistan, in a surprise move, called a ceasefire on the borders. 'Janab, they are in no mood to fire at us today,' Constable Basheer Ahmad said to Payer. 'It seems they are honest till this day.' They then descended to the ramshackle building which till eight years ago was the police chowki for the 2,000-odd Teetwal residents. Soon a dozen labourers arrive with a chair, a table and the roznamcha (day book where crimes and FIRs are registered). Two hours later, under the prying eyes of Pakistani soldiers, the police chowki was functioning. 'We are starting this chowki after eight years, in fact 14 years without fear. We were otherwise operating from the village building where no shells or gunfire could reach, behind the mountains. But today is a big day. Let us see how long they will keep the promise,' said a beaming Kalandar Khan, assistant sub-inspector, who would head a team of six at the chowki. 'We are in close range of their guns. Even a pistol can be effective,' he said. 'Last year, their shells almost levelled this building,' said Khan. Across the Kishenganga, busy traffic is plying on the 60-km Muzaffarabad- Athmuqam stretch also called Neelam Valley road. 'We are witnessing this miracle after eight years. Such heavy traffic with so many people, I can't believe this,' said 70-year-old Peer Maqbool Shah, the Teetwal numberdar. 'When traffic plied across the road on Id, I could not believe it. I rubbed my eyes. This road has been empty for years and any movement would attract firing from all sides. But today, it is wonderful. No gunfire, no shells. Life is suddenly so beautiful,' he exclaimed. Shah's brother lives across the stream in Tarban village; the hope of seeing him again cheers him up. 'For the past 14 years, he rarely came near the stream. I now yearn to see him. He will come today, tomorrow if he is alive,' said Shah.


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