At hamlet near LoC, 16-year calm shattered in one night

NEW DELHI : Saika Sidiq watched helplessly as the house of Parvez Ahmed went up in flames on Saturday night. Her marriage was scheduled later this month and items for the wedding had been kept in Ahmed’s house. Saika’s father Mohammad Sidiq stepped out to douse the flames, but before he could reach Ahmed’s house, a mortar shell landed near him and killed him.

Gundshaat, a hamlet less than 2 km from the Line of Control (LoC), had been calm since India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in 2003, but Saturday night changed that — a villager was killed, three injured and more than a dozen houses damaged by mortar shells fired from across the LoC.

One of the houses belonged to Ahmad, a cousin of Sidiq. Sidiq’s daughter Saika was to get married on October 29 and he had stocked wedding gifts and other items in his cousin’s house.

“There is a tradition in our village that we buy things like, refrigerator, washing machine etc, for the bride,” said Saika’s mother Nasreena Bano. “When the house caught fire, he (Sidiq) rushed out to extinguish it but a shell landed right then and he was killed.”

“My husband became a victim of conflict between the two countries. Everything is finished now. I don’t know how I will be able to marry off my four daughters now. He (Sidiq) was the only earning member.”

The villagers recall Saturday night with horror. Bilal Ahmad said, “For the whole night, I just thought that a shell will land on our house and we would be finished.”

On Sunday, Defence spokesperson in Srinagar Col Rajesh Kalia said Pakistan violated the ceasefire in Tangdhar, killing two soldiers and a civilian. In New Delhi, the Army said it targeted terror launchpads across the border in Tangdhar, killing six to 10 Pakistani soldiers.

Police officers at Tangdhar said they have asked villagers to avoid movement at night. “As a precautionary measure, we have told people to avoid movement at night for their safety,” said a police officer.

Villagers are worried about the coming days. “There are no bunkers in the village. Everybody is scared, the children more so, as they have seen it for the first time,” said the village numberdar Nazir Ahmad (50).

At Tangdhar town, it is the marriage season and people have started to panic. “My cousin is getting married today and we had a long list of guests,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, a resident of Tangdhar. “At the last moment, we cut short the list because nobody knows what will happen next.”