Unease and uncertainty might have become the subtext of the conflict that underscores their lives but thousands of people across Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday voiced one hope as tensions between India and Pakistan spiralled after Indian Air Force jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp -- let it end here please.
Photograph: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
Across the Kashmir Valley and in the plains of Jammu, groups of people were seen huddling together and discussing the possible fallout on their everyday lives if tensions escalated between the two countries.
“We hope it ends here and there is no more escalation. If there is escalation in hostilities, it will be people on either side of the Line of Control who will suffer the most,” said Abdul Gani Dar.
The 80-year-old resident of Srinagar has witnessed all the wars between India and Pakistan and is hoping he doesn’t have to witness any more escalation of hostilities.
In the early hours of Tuesday, India launched an air strike on a Jaish camp about 80 km inside Pakistan in Balakot with officials saying a large number of terrorists, trainers and commanders were killed.
In Pakistan, the government strongly rejected India’s claim of targeting a terrorist camp in the country and causing heavy casualties and vowed to respond “at the time and place of its choosing”.
People are still recovering from the February 14 suicide bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which 40 soldiers were killed, leading to additional forces being deployed in the Valley and further tension, residents said.
Residents of Kashmir went on a hoarding spree after the government launched a crackdown on separatists and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Jammu and Kashmir cadres last week. The move was followed by the deployment of 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces in the Valley, translating to 10,000 more personnel.
“First additional forces deployed, then rationing. We are not sure what is in store for us. It seems we are sandwiched and god only knows what is in store for us,” said a frustrated Mohammed Amin Bhat. The 65-year-old is a shopkeeper in Srinagar and is hoping desperately there will be some semblance of normalcy for them soon.
Insiders from the tourism industry, the mainstay of state’s economy, were equally apprehensive about the situation.
Since morning, many hotels in the state had received cancellations from guests who had made bookings from across the country, they said.
In Jammu, while people rejoiced at the surgical air strike, there were also fears that any escalation would disrupt their lives.
The region, they said, is located closer to the international border as well as the Line of Control.
Villagers along the Line of Control in Poonch and Rajouri have been asked to shift immediately inside the bunkers in case of shelling from across the border, some residents said.
Others, including former chief minister Omar Abdullah, took to social media to express their fears about the possibility of a full blown confrontation between the two nuclear powers.
“The problem now becomes PM Imran Khan’s commitment to his country -- ‘Pakistan will not think about responding, Pakistan WILL respond’. What shape will response take? Where will response be? Will India have to respond to Pakistan’s response?” the National Conference leader wrote on his Twitter handle.
Governor Satya Pal Malik on Sunday allayed the people’s fears, saying the deployment of forces was only an election-related exercise and there was no reason to panic.
In an apparent dig, Abdullah said the reports about an Indian Air Force C17 Globemaster III flying over Jammu and Kashmir was about election duty and had nothing to do with the air strikes in Pakistan.
“It’s sitting in Srinagar offloading paramilitary forces to deal with internal security & election duty. Has nothing to do with the airstrike into Pakistan this morning,” he said.
Officials said security forces have been asked to remain on alert as the National Investigation Agency is carrying out raids on residences of some top separatist leaders and their sympathisers.
Security forces have been deployed in strength in vulnerable areas as officials expect protests against the raids.