Bordering on fear: the lives under threat near the Line of Control


Lal Pur

When India and
Pakistan exchanged artillery fire near here more than a decade ago, the house
of Bashir Ahmed Abbassi was badly damaged. Now, whenever tension ratchets up
between the two nations – as it frequently does – Mr Abbassi fears his home could
be hit again.

“In 1999 and 2000 there was shelling. My house suffered a lot of damage – around R100,000,” said the shop-keeper from the village of Isham. “We live on the Line of Control. We are involved. When there is tension I feel bad because of what happened in 2000.”

Mr Abbassi and his neighbours reside in the shadow of one of the most hotly-disputed borders in the world. The snaking 460-mile Line of Control (LoC) that divides Pakistan Kashmir from Indian Kashmir and represents the unofficial but de facto border, is rarely far from the headlines.

Most recently, three Pakistani and two Indian soldiers were killed south of here in clashes that lead to another war of words between political leaders. India expressed outrage that one of its troops was apparently beheaded. Pakistan retorted saying that at least a dozen of its soldiers had been decapitated in incidents in the past decade.

“When there is shelling, there is nothing we can do to save our lives,” said Mohammed Amir Abbassi, a cousin of the shop-keeper who runs a roadside shack selling tea and vegetables. “Two months ago there was shelling further south.”

The road towards the LoC from the town of Uri becomes increasingly high and narrow. From the road, the mineral-green water of the Jhelum river flashes from the bottom of the valley. For many years, the Indian authorities have worked to upgrade the road.

“I have been working on the road for 25 years. There is no other work here,” said Nazir Ahmed, crouching with other members of a road-crew who were trying to brew tea in the lea of a large boulder.

The work to improve the road, technically National Highway 1, is partly to benefit the military and partly to enable cross-border trade that began in October 2008 after a halt of 60 years. (A bus service began three years earlier but locals complain it is very difficult to get permission to cross.)

Four days a week, 50 brightly-painted trucks from Pakistan Kashmir arrive in Indian Kashmir bearing oranges, spices and vegetables, and 50 rather more ordinary trucks head in the opposite direction, carrying bananas, embroidered goods and apples. Under the watch of Indian officials, the Pakistani drivers unload their cargo at the Salamabad trading centre.

Officials are proud that even when tensions are high, as in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the trucks have never stopped. “The trade helps address the trust deficit,” said NA Baba, the chief trade official.

The furthest point one can reach without a permit from the Indian military authorities is the sentry post of Lal Pur, named for the red metal bridge that crossed a ravine flooding into the Jhelum. “See the snow,” said a soldier, pointing a mountainside a couple of miles away. “That’s Pakistan.”

The Indian armed forces declined permission for The Independent to visit the actual LoC, which was formalised by the 1972 Simla Accord, signed following the 1971 Indo-Pak war. It was based on the ceasefire line established following clashes that erupted after Partition in 1947 when the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided. Both countries still claim the right to that part of Kashmir held by the other side.

In 2001, in the Indian city of Agra, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pakistan’s military leader Pervez Musharraf, reportedly came close to agreeing a deal that would have made made the LoC less relevant. The deal fell through but a ceasefire was signed in 2003.

For the people whose homes are barely a mile from the border and whose lives are under the conflicting pulls of India and Pakistan, their loyalties are clear. They believe there should be no border between the two Kashmirs and that Mr Abbassi should be able to visit the cousins he has in Pakistan whom he has never met. He said: “We are Kashmiris. They should get rid of the border so that both sides can meet.”

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game