The fresh escalation along the Line of Control and working International Border has cast a shadow on intra-Kashmir trade with authorities suspending the cross-border trade after two days of intense shelling that has left eight people dead in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tuesday's civilian deaths are the highest on a single day in the past 13 years, after soldiers from both sides traded fire at each other's locations across the border in Jammu region. Both sides blamed each other for ceasefire violations as tensions grew in an increasingly hostile relationship between India and Pakistan.
The shelling and sporadic firing, which started in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, continued throughout the day, leaving more than two dozen people injured.
The trade between the two countries in Kashmir region has largely remained unaffected since 2008, when it was started after years of negotiations, but the rising tensions along the de-facto borders seems to have cast a shadow on its future prospects, as India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire that had brought much-needed respite for the residents living along the tense borders.
“The reasons are unknown but we hope to start the trade again, very soon,” the General Secretary of Salamabad Traders Union, Hilal Ahmad Turki, said.
Earlier on Monday, Karvan-e-Aman, a bus service between two part of Kashmir, was also suspended.
On Tuesday — eight civilians were killed, six in Ramgarh sector — and two in Rajouri and at least 22 people were injured in the daylong firing. Thousands of people living along LoC and IB in Jammu have been asked to migrate to the plains.
“Residents of 55 villages have fled from in Ramgarh sector after the firing intensified on Tuesday. Most of these people have taken shelter in temples, schools, and Radha Soami Satsang Beas shelters in safer areas,” Ravinder Sharma, a journalist in Jammu, told Firstpost on phone.
Deputy Commissioner Jammu, Simrandeep Singh, told Firstpost that although the firing has been taking place for a week now, its intensity on Tuesday superseded the recent incidents.
He said the authorities have closed 175 government schools along the border and people have been asked to stay alerted in case of any eventuality.
“We have issued orders to close all the schools and we are planning to keep them closed for some time,” Singh said.
He added that his office, with the help of volunteers, is advising people to either move towards the plain areas or if they want to stay in their homes, they should use underground bunkers during the night.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti too expressed anguish and concern over the loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties in unabated border shelling.
Mufti made a fervent appeal for peace and political dialogue between India and Pakistan to de-escalate the perilously hostile situation prevailing in the region.
“I am deeply pained over the fresh spate of civilian killings, including children and women, in border shelling and urge the political leadership in New Delhi and Islamabad to take effective and urgent measures to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to the miseries of the hapless people of Jammu and Kashmir who are caught in the deadly crossfire,” Mufti said.
She added the unabated border shelling has led to a tragic humanitarian crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, where innocent civilians and their properties are being targeted.
“We in Jammu and Kashmir yearn for peace as we have been suffering immensely because of the hostility and violence in the region and know very well its dangers and perilous consequences," she said and added that India and Pakistan must open the channels of communication, at the earliest, realising the dangerous consequences of any escalation of ongoing confrontation along the borders.
The Border Security Forces said they have destroyed 14 Pakistani posts in retaliatory action along IB in response to ceasefire violations by the Pakistani rangers.
“BSF gave a calibrated retaliation on IB in response to unprovoked firing and shelling of Pakistan Rangers in Ramgarh area and Arnia Sectors since morning,” DIG, Dharmendra Pareek, said. “Since morning, BSF targeted Pakistan Rangers’ posts across IB in the same sector and caused heavy damage to 14 Pakistani Posts,” he said.