With the formal declaration of ceasefire between India and Pakistan on the intervening night of 1 and 2 January 1949, guns in J&K fell silent at midnight. And though hostilities between the two countries ended, the ceasefire line in J&K (which is now known as the Line of Control or LoC), never really remained silent and guns there have been booming ever since 1947. And since this phenomenon gradually acquired a quasi- official status, neither Government considered it necessary to intervene till the situation aggravated to the point where it could possibly result in outbreak of war. However, as such occasions were few and rare, exchanges of fire became such a common and every day affair that it even ceased to make news anymore.
So, even while both India and Pakistan were undertaking elaborate confidence building measures and waxing eloquence over the major successes achieved in ushering peace and improving bilateral ties, their armies continued to trade fire on the LoC. While this took its toll on soldiers, innocent villagers residing in the vicinity of the LoC too bore the brunt of this senseless violence. Many a border village lay abandoned, its dwellers having migrated to safer areas in the interior to escape death and available statics reveal that during the period 1999 to 2003, the average number of civilian fatalities on the Indian side due to cross LoC firing stood at a staggering 904! Though details of civilians killed on the Pakistan side of the LoC are not known, it is likely that a similar number must have perished there too.
General Musharaff may have a lot to explain for his bloody misadventure in Kargil during which hundreds of soldiers were sacrificed merely to fulfill his senseless whim. Yet, he does deserve credit for ushering the ceasefire on the LoC in 2003, which drastically reduced, if not completely eliminate the ongoing spate of senseless killings on both sides of the LoC. And the available statistics prove this- for in the last five years, the annual average of civilian casualties has fallen to 51. Ceasefire along the LoC enabled the inhabitants on both sides who had been forced to flee their villages and eke out a miserable living as homeless refugees elsewhere, to return and resume their normal lives. The people on the Indian side of the LoC (as would be those on the other side) were overjoyed with the new- found peace. And when General Musharaff escaped the assassination bids on his life, there was a popular belief amongst the resident of border villages that it was due to their dua (prayers) that their saviour had come to no harm!
However, with the recent flare- up on the LoC after the beheading of an Indian soldier, the precarious ceasefire once again had the full potential of destroying whatever peace had prevailed on the LoC since 2003. Indias threat of retaliation and the abrupt closing of the Chakan- da- Bagh trans- LoC trade transit route by the Pakistan army further aggravated the situation. However, the Indian army did not retaliate and soon tempers cooled down on both sides. So, now that things have returned to normal on the LoC, one has to thank both General Musharaff for his ceasefire initiative and the Indian army for its restraint. And from this we learn the important lesson that, in the ultimate analysis, no one loses by sacrificing emotions for the sake of peace!
Reduction in firing across the LoC has not only alleviated the suffering of the inhabitants of border villages on both sides, but also opened new horizons for improving Indo Pak relations by demonstrating that when there is a will, there is a way. Prior to 2003, the very thought of a ceasefire along the LoC would have been dismissed as the wild imagination of an imbecile. Yet, this has come to pass and despite all the provocations and sporadic infringements, the ceasefire has more or less, held out. Leaders as well as radical groups of both countries need to realise that while fanning hatred towards each other may be a handy tool for diverting attention of the public from internal problems, creating vote banks or power centres, in the long run, it is a self- destructing enterprise. If we could co-exist peacefully for centuries until 1947, why is it that we cant do so now? Today, this thought too may sound like the wild imagination of an imbecile, but so did the idea of peace along the LoC prior to 2003!
Enough of blood has been shed on the LoC and if we dont abjure our animosity, more bloodshed will follow and this cycle of death and destruction will go on till eternity. No religion or faith condones the killing of innocent men, women and children. It is time we got over the misplaced sense of nationalism that has been instilled into us to regard the person across the LoC as the enemy and put an end to this illogical acrimony. So, the sooner, we- who sit in safe areas, realise that shedding the blood of innocents, merely to satiate our baser instincts is sacrilegious, the better will it be for our brethren residing in the border areas on both sides of the LoC. Is this asking for too much?
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