November 2016 News

Indo-Pak Ceasefire In Tatters

25 November 2016
Rising Kashmir
Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar: The ceasefire agreement signed by the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani premier Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali on November 26, 2003 is in tatters with the two countries caught in hostilities along the 720-km long Line of Control (LoC) and 198-km long International Border (IB) in Jammu Kashmir. The ceasefire agreement between the two PMs had not only paved way for New Delhi and Islamabad to engage in a meaningful dialogue process but also helped the affected people on both sides of the borders heave a sigh of relief. The ceasefire survived intermittent and intense border skirmishes but the hostilities between the two countries witnessed an upward trajectory since this year's September 18 attack when four Jaish-e-Muhammad militants attacked an Army's base camp in Uri leaving 19 troops dead. Eleven days after the attack, India responded with what it called 'surgical strikes' in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) against the militant launch pads across the LoC and said it inflicted 'significant casualties' while New Delhi-based media reported the casualty figures between 35 and 50. However, Islamabad rejected the claim stating that Indian troops had not crossed the LoC but only skirmished with Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers and the wounding of nine. This triggered a war outcry in both countries. Since then the incidents of cross-LoC firing have continued ending in causality on both sides of the divide. CEASEFIRE DIVIDENDS Vajpayee-Jamali's ceasefire had brought a major relief to people living near the LoC and IB. After the ceasefire was announced, the border residents slowly started returning to their villages situated near the LoC and IB. The Indian and Pakistani troops on the two sides started de-mining the villages and villagers started cultivating their lands. It was after many years that the people living there heaved a sigh of relief and started sleeping without the fear of dying in the opposition troops shelling. They started renovating their broken houses, which had given way by the shelling from across. The respective government also did their bit and started developmental works like the construction of roads, schools and Panchayat houses. Life suddenly started looking better for them. FROM BUNKERS TO SCHOOLS Saima Chalkoo, 28, said when she studied in a primary school she would hide inside the school bunker whenever hostilities between Indian and Pakistani troops along the LoC led to shelling on her village, Silikote in Uri area of north Kashmir's Baramulla district. After the ceasefire, she taught children of the same school in an open field. Recalling the days of her childhood, Saima said many times she used to be at school when the shelling would start in Silikote, 121 km north of the Srinagar. 'The teachers would take us inside a bunker in the school until the shelling stopped,' she said. 'My elder sister Rubina Akhtar was a teacher then and she and Manzoor sir would later accompany all the children to their homes.' Saima still remembers the fateful day of November 1, 2001, when the village got caught in heavy mortar shelling and a rain of bullets. 'It was 8:45 am and I was heading toward school when the shelling started,' said Saima, who was a 5th standard student then. 'Teachers would advice us to attend the school late in the mornings, as those days the villages used to witness heavy firing in the mornings and evenings.' She said after hearing the gunfire and blasts, she hurriedly ran back to her home. 'After sometime, the entire village assembled and came to know that a porter Irshad Ahmad was hit in the leg by the shells while his mother Sajad Begum was killed,' she said. 'The villagers took Irshad to the hospital where his leg was amputated.' Saima said her students no longer had to witness what she witnessed as a child but after the hostilities between two countries started again, they were living under a constant fear. RETURN OF HOSTILITIES After Army's 'surgical strikes' on September 29, at least 18 Indian troops have been killed, two of them beheaded, in Pakistani troops firing, shelling and cross-LoC raids along the LoC and IB in Jammu Kashmir and one trooper is also in the captivity of the Pakistani troops while, according to Pakistani media, the number of causalities on the other side is even higher. On November 23, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department of Pakistan army confirmed the death of seven civilians by the rocket fired by Indian troops along the LoC in Neelam Valley and reports of attacks on ambulance that were ferrying the injured to the hospital. Defence sources said from September 29 Pakistani troops had breached the cross-LoC and border ceasefire 300 times leading to killings of 18 Army and BSF men. Two troops were also beheaded in two cross-LoC raids by militants and Pakistani troops, they said while Islamabad claimed to have captured an Indian Army soldier Chandu Babu Lal Chauhan on September 30. At least 12 civilians have also lost their lives and dozens other injured in cross-border firing and shelling in the State since September 29. An Army official said Pakistani troops had suffered heavy casualties in the retaliatory firing and mortar shelling by Indian Army and border guards during the ceasefire violations. CEASEFIRE EXPLAINED What is a ceasefire? The ceasefire is a truce announced between two warring parties for the cessation of hostilities. When did India and Pakistan announce first ceasefire? In 1947, after weeks of intense fighting between Pakistan and India, Pakistani leaders and the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru declared ceasefire and sought UN arbitration with the promise of a plebiscite. When was ceasefire line re-designated as LoC? Originally known as the Ceasefire Line, it was re-designated as the Line of Control (LoC) following the Simla Agreement, which was signed on 3 July 1972. What led to LoC ceasefire? After the Kargil War of 1999, Indian and Pakistani troops were at the loggerheads and the two would often exchange fire and mortars on the 720-km long Line of Control and the 198-km International Border, which separates the state between India and Pakistan. This brought miseries to the border residents who would flee their villages and take refugees in safer zones away from their homes and farms. Taking note of the situation, the two countries decided to announce a complete truce and promised not to open fire on one another's troops across the LoC and IB. When did it come into being? Former Indian PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Pakistan PM, Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali announced ceasefire on November 26, 2003.