The Pain Along LoC

Hosni, a renowned poet belonging to Baltistan (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), had remarked after his Kargil tour, ‘Ek deewar ki doori hai kafas / ye na hoti to chaman me hote’ (this cage is only a wall, had it not been there we would be free). Kargil district of Ladakh is situated very close to the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. Before independence Baltistan and Ladakh shared cultural contiguity but now it lies in Pakistan and is marked as Gilgit-Baltistan on the maps. Ladakh is part of Jammu and Kashmir and is governed by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council since 1995.
This part is colder than the rest of the country, yet it bears the heat of war or political tensions between the India and Pakistan. Whenever the two countries are on the verge of a war, or terrorists try to cross over or any disturbance is reported along the borders, the people on both sides of the LoC are gripped by fear. They start reliving the horrors of the past. It was in 1999 that the Kargil War took place. Though the soldiers from both countries went back after days of pitched battle, the local people faced a gamut of problems and took months and years to come out of the hardships caused by the war. Soldiers in this area are provided special facilities so that they can brave the extremely cold sub zero temperatures, and after a period of time, they are transferred to the plains to give them relief from this cold desert. But no one has ever thought about the people of this area who all year round have to brave, on the one hand, the harsh extremity of weather and on the other hand, have to bear the callousness of the government.
The year 1947 is remembered as one of the biggest tragedies in human history when thousands of people and families were divided and spilt for the creation of two independent nations. The pain of separation is felt only by such a brother, who from across the border is not able to come to participate in his nephew’s marriage; by a person who cannot cross the border to be a part of his mother’s bier. Borders do not just divide geographical regions, but also relations, sentiments and humanity. The division of India too resulted in all this. Politicians were eager to rule and religion was used in this attempt; India was divided and Pakistan was created. The politicians did not realise that a geographical division was not about to divide just plains and mountains and rivers but also human emotions. They did not visualise that the division would be tantamount to taking the government’s permission to visit one’s near and dear ones.
The founder of Ladakh-based ‘Zojila Watch’, Prof. Javed Naqi, says that the LoC has not only crippled human lives, but also severely affected animals. Due to increased activity of soldiers along the LoC, snow leopards have started moving towards human settlements and have started attacking people and domesticated animals. This exotic animal has come under severe pressure and is perhaps on the verge of extinction. Prof. Javed Naqi has suggested that the border between India and Pakistan should be converted into a park symbolising peace.
We should take a cue from those European nations who were cut-throat enemies during the two World Wars but forged such friendly ties over time that they have become inseparable. Unfortunately, our leaders are loath to thinking in such ways and are better at politicking than thinking of the masses. The passengers of the ‘Samjhauta Express’ and ‘Aman ka Karwan’ bus service would be able to relate to the real significance of relations between the two countries as they feel the crunch of tension between the two nations.
India and Pakistan are involved in a painful relation and so are the people of the two countries; the pain seems incurable. But even if a wound is caressed with love and care, the patient feels a decline in pain. So the apologists of peace and harmony in both the nations should not approach the subject politically. The solution must be found via social and cultural exchanges like games etc.
We have seen the result of political agreements and engagements which break down easily. People from both the sides want peace, especially people along the border who have to bear the brunt of war and conflicts for long periods. People to people relations must be encouraged _ this will deal the biggest blow to the enemies of peace on both the sides. Ladakh and Baltistan too must be given a place in the scheme of things hovering around sports diplomacy. Only cricket diplomacy will not do. There are many sports that are popular among the people residing along the border on both sides. Polo is one of the favourite games in both Baltistan and Ladakh. This is the traditional sport of both the regions. If this sport is encouraged then people from both these regions can be made to come together in dialogue and cross border tours and travel which will open new vistas for reaching long-lasting peace.
It is high time to choose trade over guns, peace over war and life over vengeance. Both the nations are nuclear empowered and there is not even an iota of margin of error on any side. If both the nations have to move down the path of development, then those playing from behind the scenes to exacerbate mutual animosity will have to be exposed. Political leaders should ask themselves as to whose interests they are serving by furthering an agenda of rivalry _ surely not for the people who are anxious to taste the sweetness of peace.

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