Kashmiris Suffer as India, Pakistan Trade Fire

 Kashmiris Suffer as India, Pakistan Trade Fire

On the face of it, these villages in the Jammu region of Indian Kashmir seem idyllic. Buffalo carts lazily make their way through lush green paddy fields. Elderly villagers sit in the gentle sun exchanging local gossip and bright-eyed children fill the local schools.

But over the last two weeks the villages have been witness to an angry exchange of fire and mortar shells between Indian and Pakistani soldiers. This isn't the first time that these villages have borne the brunt of the animosity between India and archrival Pakistan, and likely won't be the last.

Earlier this month at least nine civilians were killed and scores injured in Kashmir, a region of the Himalayas divided between the South Asian nations but claimed entirely by both.

Kashmir is one of the thorniest disputes between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Talks scheduled to begin Monday between Pakistan and India's national security advisers were scrapped because of disagreements related largely to Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the violence. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over their competing claims to Kashmir, and each administers part of it.

A ceasefire has largely held since 2003, but gunbattles and border skirmishes are fairly common. So common that all the schools in the villages of the R.S. Pura sector of Jammu have temporary shelters built behind the buildings so children can run and hide. When the guns fall silent the children are escorted home in ones and twos.

"Does the government know how people near the border survive? Do they understand what the conditions are here?" asks Chain Singh, an 88-year-old farmer and veteran of the Indian army.

"Has a single high-level official visited our villages?"

"The firing is an everyday thing. It's a really big problem for us. Everyone suffers. The children suffer," says Kulbur Singh, a farmer.

"This problem needs to be solved. We want Pakistan to live in peace and let us live in peace."
Kashmiris Suffer as India, Pakistan Trade Fire  Kashmiris Suffer as India, Pakistan Trade Fire Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 2:36 PM Rating: 5

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