November 2004 News

Schools open as firing stops on LoC

26 November 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent

Jammu: Huddled together in a small classroom, the 50 odd students are listening to their teacher with rapt attention. The students are so relaxed that they are totally unaware of the fact that they are only a few hundred meters away from the Line of Control-where only a year back guns of Indian and Pakistani soldiers kept roaring and in the process disturbing the life of the inhabitants here. This is the scene at the Silkote Middle School Uri, near the LoC where life had become miserable because of the intermittent shelling by the troops of the two neighboring countries. But as the cease-fire along the LoC completes one full year life has sprung many a surprises for the people of this small hamlet. Says Rubina, a schoolteacher working in the Silkote Middle School, ' Education had become the first casualty as the guns of Indian and Pakistani soldiers kept roaring. People were reluctant to send their wards to the school fearing that mortar shells coming from across the border may hit the school building. The people preferred to keep their children illiterate than to send them to school and face the ruthless shelling'. ' The rolls in our school had dropped by nearly fifty percent and the class work was restricted to just an hour,' says Rubina. 'But after the cease-fire was announced life has changed for good. People have once again started sending their children to school and classes function for at least six hours a day,' says the beaming Rubina. Interestingly, as the cease-fire continues to hold people in the border areas have started to resume their agricultural activities as well. Says Khazir Mohammed, the Numberdar of Silkote Village. ' Calm at the LOC has meant that we have started to resume our agricultural activities. Just a year before our life had become miserable, as we were not able to work in the fields because of the shelling. Most of the time we had to remain indoors as movement during the day was not possible'. ' Even for our food and fodder for the cattle we had to be dependant on the aid provided by the Government,' says the Numberdar. 'But now things are back to normal again. This year we had a bumper crop and people feel safe to move around even during evening hours,' he adds. Continuation of the cease-fire has not only meant restoration of agricultural and other activities but it has generated a sense of security among the border residents. Ask Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, a victim, who has lost both of his legs during one such incident when a mortar shell coming from across the border exploded when he was busy working in his fields. ' It was in October 2001 that while working in my fields a mortar shell exploded in front of me. The incident left me crippled as I lost both of my legs. For the next two years I did not even come out of my house as I felt unsafe outside'. 'But when the guns on both the sides felt silent I mustered courage to move out. Now I feel free to move after the Army officials provided me with Jaipur foot,' adds Mushtaq. Mushtaq prays that the cease-fire becomes a permanent feature in the border areas. ' I hope the cease-fire continues and it becomes a permanent feature in the border areas. I pray that the list of the people like me who had to suffer because of the shelling does not increase any more,' adds Mushtaq with tears rolling down his cheeks.


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