PAKISTAN/KASHMIR: Madness at line of control takes lives of innocent civilians

There have been repeated outbreaks of cross-Line of Control firing in Jammu Kashmir, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians. Heavy weapons are killing innocent civilians, destroying homes, public and private property. The civilians are forced to flee on both sides of the LOC.

Kashmiris of both the sides are leading a life of misery, they toil each day tilling their land, looking after their cattle and dodging bullets. The volatile Kashmir- a heaven on earth- has been caught between two feuding atomic powers, Pakistan and India. The 435 miles (700 km) long, Line of Control (LoC) often witnesses indiscriminate and mad cross firing at both sides resulting in deaths of dozens of Kashmiris each year.

Cross firing shelling is an everyday reality for people from both sides of the disputed border. Their day begins with the sound of round of shots heard from distance and ends with news of casualties caused due to it.

Both countries have been routinely trading fire in Kashmir in recent months, rendering a 2003 mutual ceasefire understanding ineffective. It is constant nightmare for the innocent civilians who live under threat to life and property.

Resultantly thousands of Kashmiris are forced to move out of their ancestral lands, as many these poor farmers have no other mean of sustenance for their families they move back after the situation is calm.

Official figures from United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan UNMOGIP – deployed since January 1949 and which supervises the ceasefire along the line of control- reveal there were 228 incidents of ceasefire violation along LoC and 221 incidents of ceasefire violation along the International border in 2016. Thirteen civilians were killed and 83 others were injured.

On July 16, Pakistan accused India of hitting a military vehicle and killing four soldiers in cross-border firing in the disputed Kashmir region. This incident took place in Athmaqam in Neelum Valley, Pakistani administered Kashmir, where military officials said they responded to the Indian “ceasefire violation”.

“The vehicle fell into the Neelum River. Four soldiers drowned. Body of one shaheed (martyr) recovered, search for remaining three in progress,” the military said in a short statement.

According to the official figures collected from both sides, from July to December 2014, 19 Kashmiris belong to Azad Kashmir (Pakistan administered Kashmir) were killed in cross firing while 3 soldiers of Pakistan army were killed.

Whereas during the same period i.e. July to December 2014, 6 civilians from Jammu Kashmir( Indian administered Kashmir) were killed while 4 Indian soldiers lost their lives.

In the year 2015, between the months of January to December, 37 civilians from Azad Kashmir lost their lives while one soldier of Pak army was killed.

Whereas, in Jammu Kashmir during 2015, 16 Kashmiris from Jammu Kashmir lost their lives while nine Indian soldiers were also killed.

Each year hundreds of innocent lives are lost due to the madness that ensues, the loss of Kashmiri’s live is little more than collateral damage for the feuding neighbors each laying its claim our the picturesque and bountiful land. The loss of property and live are never compensated by either Pakistan or India, and the poor Kashmiris are advised to move out of their land or stay low.

In 2017 until June, there were 30 incidents of ceasefire violation along the LoC and six incidents on the International Border. It is pertinent to mentioned here that Islamabad allows UN observers to monitor the LoC but New Delhi does not.

The schools children and women are the routine victim of unprovoked and sudden firing that can ensue on the slightest pretext from both sides. Kashmiris who have been fighting for freedom are labeled as terrorists even the young stone palters are not spared and are killed brutally.

The police excess against the Kashmiris in Jammu Kashmir is hardly any secret. In 2017, the Indian armed forces opened indiscriminate fire on protestors killing dozens while many lost their eyes due to pellets guns that were illegally used to disperse the protestors.

The track record of Pakistan in this regard is not clean either police in Pakistan routinely harass and torture Kashimiris who demand freedom from the state. There have been countless documented cases of political activists being jailed, tortured, murdered, or having disappeared by the Government of Pakistan for their political work for a free Kashmir.

Data from the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) shows that there has been a spike in civilian deaths in the January-June period in conflict-related incidents this year. While 17 civilians were killed during the period in 2016, this year the toll has crossed 55.

The uncertainty of getting bombed at any time and being displaced has turned it into a continuing human tragedy for Kashmiris who are compelled to live under constant threat. Though the loss of live can be compiled statistically the financial loss is never figured in. The houses located along the LoC often get destroyed, while their cattle are killed. Even the standing crops -the culmination of years of farmer’s hard work- are burnt thus causing huge financial loss for the farmers. Many families who had suffered financial losses due to the cross firing and shelling are caught in the vicious cycle of property as they have no other means to recover

Peace is the only sustainable solution to the Kashmir conflict both India and Pakistan should respect the right of self determination of the Kashmiris who are caught in the middle for no fault of their. Peace is only possible if both sides’ stops ceasefire violation.

Moreover, there should be adequate compensation for the loss of Kashmiri life and property, because once the firing gets over and damage is caused, they have no other means to recover.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appeals to international community to force the India and Pakistan to exercise restrained and honour their mutual ceasefire obligation ensuring that no innocent life is lost due to their military madness.