As India and Pakistan adhere to ceasefire agreement after years of cross-border shelling, marriage celebrations have silently returned to villages along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan agreed to uphold ceasefire along the borders in the Union Territory from the night of February 24 and 25, bringing respite to the residents who were reeling under the constant threat of shelling from across the border.
The original ceasefire agreement was reached between the nations in November 2003 but it virtually lost its relevance after 2006 due to frequent ceasefire violations that touched an all-time high in 2020 with over 5,000 incidents of firing and shelling being recorded. The latest decision brought relief to the border residents who resumed activities like farming and schooling that were the worst-hit by Pakistani shelling.
With both countries observing the ceasefire agreement religiously since February, people have also started celebrating weddings in their own houses instead of moving the events to safer places outside the villages, the officials said.
They said brightly illuminated wedding houses are a common sight on the borders these days in both Poonch and Rajouri districts as are people dancing to drums and accompaniments, a sight which many have forgotten due to the constant fear of shelling and the practice of observing complete darkness to escape being attacked during the hostilities.
"We are happy to witness such celebrations after a very long time," Parvez Ahmad, a groom from village Gagriya along the zero line in Sawian area of Poonch said. Ahmad was among the lucky youngsters who tied the knot last week. But the shadow of fear from early days seemed to linger as two of his relatives in the wedding party carried white flags when they walked through the village to the bride's house.
A local, Mohammad Akbar Mir, said earlier they used to stay indoors for days together due to intense shelling from across the border. "This time the weddings are taking place with pomp and show...normal activities like trading have resumed, unlike in the past when we used to fear the Pakistani guns atop the hillock overlooking the village," he said.
Newly-wed Tarannum said the shelling and firing had made the situation very dangerous for the people living along the LoC. "People were getting killed, their houses destroyed...now they are happy as peace has returned following the latest agreement," she said.
Students are also happy as the prevailing calm has alleviated their parents' concern about their safety and allowed them free movement. "My family was very concerned about my safety as I had to go out to attend school and private tuition," Mohammad Farooq, a 12th class student from Mendhar, said. He said the peace allowed normal functioning of schools along the borders.
Another villager, Mohammad Sabir, said the ceasefire violation had become routine earlier, making the lives of the people along the border miserable. "There has been no ceasefire violation over the past 46 days, allowing people to carry out their daily chores without worrying about safety," he said, expressing hope that both the countries would uphold the agreement in the larger interests of humanity.