In Uri town, around 100 km north of Srinagar, all shops are open and traffic is plying at a normal pace. In spite of cold weather, shopkeepers open shops early in the morning. There is no fear of shells landing in the market or heavy firing in nearby mountains.
It is one year of reaffirmation of the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan and both the countries have, contrary to the opinions and predictions of the experts, adhered to the ceasefire agreement. Indian Army says since Feb 25 last year when the Indian Army and Pakistan announced the ceasefire not a single exchange of fire has been exchanged between the two armies.
“We were living fearful lives. Our children were living frightened lives. The ceasefire agreement has changed everything. We are living without fear,” says Haji Mohammad Hanief, Sarpanch. Hanief, who sports a long white beard, says people in the border areas are happy with the continuation of the ceasefire.
“We visit our agriculture fields close to the LoC these days without having threat that stray bullet can kill us. This feeling is so different and so satisfying. Those of you who haven’t lived under daily firing and shelling will not know it,” he adds.
In the Hajipeer sector, children are seen playing in the open fields.
In Garkote, close to the LoC, Shabir Ahmad Naik, sarpanch of the area, says he wants to appeal to both India and Pakistan to understand that the war only brings destruction. “See what is happening between Ukraine and Russia. We the people of border areas are appealing to both India and Pakistan to adhere to the ceasefire. Let there be peace. Let there be clam.”
The youths of the area say since the ceasefire agreement they have been freely going up into mountains, tracking and finding new routes. Tracking has become a passion among youngsters living close to the borders in the Uri sector.
Farhaan, who identified himself as a blogger and content creator, says he is part of the Pirpanchal Adventure Club. The club has been created to explore those places in the Uri area that haven’t been over the years toured. He says since the ceasefire agreement they are tracking and moving around in large numbers. Earlier, he says, there was anxiety and panic all around. “We go for tracking to different places, take videos of them and write about them. It is inspiring more people to go for tracking,” he adds.
On Feb 25, 2021, all of sudden, amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan, the DGsMO of both countries issued a joint statement, surprising all. It said, “In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb the peace and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight February 24-25 Feb 2021.”
This was the first time since the 2003 ceasefire agreement that both countries agreed to adhere to the ceasefire. The move happened after the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and it was construed in Kashmir both the countries are talking to each other through a backchannel. Many analysts presumed that the ceasefire will not last long. But the events are proving them wrong.
This year, according to the Army, not a single ceasefire violation has been reported along the LoC or the International Border after the reaffirmation of the ceasefire agreement. Up to Feb 24 from January 2021, otherwise, the Indian army says, 740 ceasefire violations were recorded from the Pakistani side. In 2004, there had been only one ceasefire violation. The situation at present seems much better on the LoC and the IB. In subsequent years the LoC saw an increase and decrease in the ceasefire violations like in 2007 there were 21 ceasefire violations; in 2008 77 such violations were reported but 2009 saw a dip again with 28 ceasefire violations. In 2010, 44 ceasefire violations were reported. In 2013, 199 incidents of ceasefire violations were recorded. There was a slight dip in the ceasefire violations when the NDA came into power in 2014. That year saw 153 ceasefire violations. 2015 remained at 152. From 2016, there was an abrupt increase with 228 violations in 2016, 860 in 2017, 1,629 in 2018.
In 2019 over 3,200 instances or an average of nine ceasefire violations were reported daily. Of these, 1,565 ceasefire violations took place since August 2019, after the BJP government abrogated Article 370. The year 2020 saw 5,100 incidents of ceasefire violations which are the all-time high in the past 17 years killing 36 people and wounding 130 others. Many in the security agencies the ceasefire will continue for a long time. They say it seems Pakistan doesn’t want to escalate the situation. They say the level of violence in the Valley has also decreased which indicates there are some serious back-channel talks going on between the two countries.