Last Friday, 16-year-old Ajay Kumar was killed as he tried to take cover from cross-border firing and shelling by Pakistani troops in his village Duian, about a kilometre from the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Ajay was preparing for his board exam.
Not far from Duian in the town of Khour, a new notice advises people to keep lights switched off and share no information with strangers in person or on the phone.
“Don’t share location or strength of Army/BSF/ Police / other Forces with anyone…Don’t respond to unknown numbers even if someone claims to be an Army/ Police officer. All strangers to be looked at with suspicion,” the notice reads, exhorting people to inform the police even if unknown people with disabilities are spotted in forward areas.
“We have never seen a notice like this in years,” says Atul Singh, a resident of a hamlet. Such notices have been put up not just in Khour but in other towns and villlages of the area too.
In a village nearby, short and stocky Tarseem Singh’s muscles bulged as he made his way through his field that seems to stretch endlessly. It is golden in colour, the paddy crop ripe. But Mr Singh, in his 50s, had to stop harvest because of the cross border shelling and sniping.
“Every time we go into the fields they snipe or shell,” he said pointing towards the LoC that lies a kilometre away.
Tarseem Singh says for the last three years beginning 2014, he hasn’t been able to harvest crops because of cross border hostilities. “This is the last year that I can hold on,” he says grimly.
His family has moved out, like rest of the village. And they don’t intend to come back. This is the second time in two decades that it had to abandon home. “We were resettled here after the Kargil war,” said Tarseem Singh, who over the last 20 years built his second house and a new life. Now with recent round of hostilities, Tarseem Singh is looking to resettle again.
Pakistani troops have violated the country’s 2003 ceasefire with India repeatedly over a month since the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes on terrorist camps across the LoC in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
The strikes came after Pakistani terrorists sneaked into India and attacked an Army camp in Uri last month. 19 soldiers were killed.