For the last 19 months the situation in the forward sectors in the Kashmir valley has seen a significant improvement compared to previous years. Both infiltration graphs and ceasefire violation incidents have come down

by Tasaduq Hussain

As guns have fallen silent over Line of Control, sports activities are happening for the first time in the forward sectors after three decades. The ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan in February 2021, is instrumental in letting border residents to feel normal, do daily chores without fear and playing is back.

Borders in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions since the 1990s have been the hotbed of infiltrations, Killings, Shelling, and devastation resulting in fear and scare among the local population. Two years ago the border residents were repeatedly pleading with both governments to adhere to ceasefire agreements strictly given the volume of damage and devastation untimely ceasefire violation would bring.

People living in forward sectors and border areas two years ago would prefer migration and settle in parts of the valley given the fear of losing lives to border shelling over the years. People used to migrate for the good of their families, safety, and security aside from their careers. Most of the border residents from places like Machil, Keran, Karnah, Gurez, Nowgam, and Uri have either settled in their district headquarters or capital city. Also, some are putting up as tenants for many years now due to untimely and unprovoked ceasefire violations.

Improving Situation

Since February 25, 2021, last year there were less than half a dozen ceasefire violations up to December 31. Ensuing year reported a very rare infiltration attempt in the northern belt of Kashmir mainly in the Karnah and Keran sector of the Kupwara district. The recent attempt was in the Machil sector where two infiltrators were killed in a joint operation by Army and JKP in the ensuing month.

However, all the attempts were foiled timely by security forces leading to the killing of infiltrators and recovery of Warlike stores, and even the narcotics from them.

For the last 19 months the situation in the forward sectors in the Kashmir valley has seen a significant improvement compared to previous years. Both infiltration graphs and ceasefire violation incidents have come down.

Places that were prone to shelling, gunfire, and killings of civilians are now hosting a huge number of people including locals and tourists. The border areas are bracing to welcome more and more new faces.

Tourism activities have started to pick at the border areas with adventure activities taking place. People in numbers prefer offbeat destinations for night campaigns, trekking, and other activities which were not allowed earlier given the scarcity of woods in Kashmir valley.

Near complete normalcy returned to border areas allowing residents to go about their everyday lives safely without any fear.

Record Breaking Tourist Influx

This year with the opening of border tourism in Kashmir a record-breaking number of more than 20 lakh tourists visited the valley. This number was recorded in the first eight months of the ongoing year. This is the result of improving the situation at the borders which is drawing tourists from across India and other parts of the world as well.

The tourism potential of Kashmir borders is proving to be very instrumental in many ways for the residents making their lives much easier and riskless with no threat perception from unprovoked ceasefire violations.

Return of Sports To Kashmir Borders

After facing immense challenges and life-threatening times for the last 30 years, Kashmir borders are emerging as the most peaceful places since the February 2021 ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan armies.

Sports fields, the virtual no-go zones were battlefields for the past three decades. They were out of bounds for people living in places other than those border areas and forward sectors in Kashmir.

Borders in Kashmir two years ago used to be under the shadows of guns, shelling, killing, and constant fear among border residents resulting in their restricted movement.

With ceasefire and peace at the forward sectors and borders of the northern belt the places earlier known as battle fields have now been shaped as the play fields. Border areas gained momentum only after two armies agreed to hold a ceasefire pact in February 2021. Notably, borders of Kashmir valley were earlier used as infiltration corridors by the different militant outfits.

In recent times activities like sports, tourism, and normal chores of border residents with a peaceful atmosphere have made a return. Though there have been very few infiltration attempts leading to their killings and recovery of warlike stores and narcotics however the overall situation compared to past 30 years has seen significant improvement.

Two years ago known as battlefields that are mainly just a few Meters and less than half a kilometres away from the LoC are witnessing the noise of spectators while witnessing different sports activities. Border residents are visibly happy.

Sports activities at these places are no less than a miracle for the residents and visitors. Huge crowd gathers to witness the improving never seen before atmosphere without any fear of becoming victims to shelling and gunfire from Pakistani rangers.

Visibly Happy Border Residents

The border residents are more thrilled and excited about the return of sports activities to earlier no-go zones. They are in numbers enjoying different sports that were not taking place two years back.

“Ever since my childhood, I have seen these playfields out of bounds for us and have gradually started to open up for locals. Most of them are already open and sports activities are taking place. It’s a good sign that we are allowed to participate in different activities,” Manzoor, 36, a resident of Gurez said.

He said that with improvement in the situation everything earlier disturbed for years is limping to normal. “It has brought life back to all of us living close to the line of Control (LoC),” he said.

Tasaduq Hussain is a Srinagar-based freelance journalist. He has been reporting on security, health, sports and border areas in Kashmir. He tweets at @journotasaduq. Views are personal