New Delhi: The Kashmir region has been a bone of contention for India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence in 1947. Both claim Kashmir in full, but govern it in part. Massive fire and shelling between the two sides has been continuing almost unabated since February this year.

Amid massive cross-border shelling and firings, the Indian government has built up over 5,000 steel and concrete bunkers across the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto frontier that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan near the international border.

The Indian Home Ministry has planned over 14,000 bunkers near the border suitable for families living in villages close to the frontier with Pakistan.

“5,538 bunkers have been completed so far along border with Pakistan including 5,035 individual bunkers and 503 community bunkers”, a government official said in a meeting of a local body of border districts of the Jammu Division chaired by the divisional commissioner.

Hoping to keep the villagers safe in the event of persistent cross-border firing, the people residing in the affected areas have had to shift to safer places on several occasions in the past. To avoid this labour-intensive evacuation process, the government started to construct 14,460 bunkers within five kilometres of the international border and LoC.

The heavily militarised Indo-Pak border has been frequently witnessing cross border exchanges of fire between the two armies, causing mainly civilian casualties on both sides.

The two nuclear-armed nations have accused each other for violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement over 3,000 times to date this year. In the last one week, there was persistent artillery fire across the border, causing several civilians injuries on the two sides.

Pakistan has also planned concrete bunkers to protect their civilians from Indian firing, but it has not started the programme yet.

Tensions have escalated between the two nuclear-armed nations since 14 February, when 40 Indian security personnel were killed in a suicide bombing attack in Kashmir. A Pakistan-based terror group claimed responsibility for it. In August, India revoked the special status of Kashmir and turned it into a federally administered union territory, sparking the outrage of Pakistan and prompting it to raise the matter in the UN.