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Younger brothers of Riyaz Ahmad Khan, who was injured near LoC, standing next to his bed at SMHS hospital, Srinagar. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla

Amid sparking tensions between India and Pakistan following the deadly Pulwama attack in which at least 42 CRPF paramilitary troopers were killed, both the countrymen feared war. But far away from the capital (and metropolitan) cities, lie the line of control (LoC).

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Ceasefire violation—Firing! Shelling! Casualties—were the news flowing in. In the decades-long rivalry between the nuclear-head neighbors, civilians living near the LoC are the first-hand victims of the gun powder.

Among such victims, 34-year-old Riyaz Ahmad Khan is battling with his life in SMHS Hospital, Srinagar on bed-number 30, ward-number 16, tangled in the bottles and tubes.

Mr. Khan, a resident of Madiyaan Kumal Kot area of Baramulla district, was at his home on 28 February when he heard heavy gun firing and sounds of blasts. He stood up and looked outside; within a moment, a mortar shell, flying from the other side of the LoC, hit his mud house. As it happened, the shell burst and Mr. Khan was in a pool of blood.

His wife, Rubina Begum, sleeping next to him shouted in the fear and cried for help. Mr. Khan only murmured, “I am dead.”

Soon, the neighbors heard the cries. Amid heavy shelling, the cries of Ms. Khan reached her brother-in-law, Mohammad Amin, living next door.

As he rushed towards their home, and what he saw shook him completely. “When I saw him, a shiver ran down my spine. His internal organs were clinging from his abdomen. I thought he is dead,” recalled Mr. Amin, looking at his elder brother’s face, in deep despair, sitting aside the bed in the hospital in Srinagar.

Soon other neighbors rushed to the house, and after seeing Mr. Khan’s condition, the dilemma of the next step hit them. “We couldn’t think how to pick him. The mortar shelling was going on continuously. But, we somehow picked him and covered his body in an old cloth,” Mr. Amin said.

They took him to the Uri hospital, some 20 km away from their village, where doctors had arranged his internal organs, gave him first aid, and shifted him to district hospital Baramulla.

The doctors on night duty at the hospital gave Mr. Khan immediate treatment and referred him to SMHS hospital Srinagar.

But, during his entire journey, Mr. Khan, whose body was only oozing blood, only uttered two sentences to his neighbor, Syed Ahmad Shah, “merey bacho ka khayal rakhna (Take care of my children),” recalled Mr. Shah how he, alongside everyone, feared his death.

At around 8:30 am on 1 March, they reached SMHS and was taken to emergency operation theater immediately. After 7 hours, doctors took him out of the theater. His body, covered in bandages, numbed Ms. Khan.

Four kilometers away from LoC

The residents of Madiyan Kumal Kot are living a dreadful life, fearing for their life, for a long time. Majority of the people in their village are into agriculture and have no other major source of income. Many times the residents have decided to leave the place but, “we don’t have any other place to go.”

According to Mr. Shah, from 2000 to 2016, life in their area was peaceful. There was no firing from any side. Everyone was living a peaceful life. But, 2016 civilian uprising in the Valley, triggered after the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016, they are living under constant fear.

“The incidents of firing on LoC started after 2016, and in 2018, it was at a massive level. We don’t want to live there but we have no other option,” said Mr. Shah.

He added that life near LoC is very difficult. As per him, every shell fired targets residential houses, and they are vulnerable.

The residents have demanded the government several times to build some bunkers in their village where they can hide themselves during the ceasefire violation in order to at least save their lives.

“If there were bunkers made up of stones with proper shelter, we can save our lives during firing,” Mr. Amin said. “Lives of children are in more danger than us, but our demands fell in deaf ears.”

Mr. Amin told The Kashmir Walla that due to this ongoing tension in their area, children don’t go outside. “They don’t even go to schools because of fear,” said Mr. Amin, and added that, “We are appealing central and state government that provide us the bunkers so that we can save our lives.”  

Poor Financial Condition

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Riyaz Ahmad Khan, who has two sons and wife, is being treated at SMHS hospital in Srinagar after being hit by a shell at his home, near Line of Control, in district Baramulla of Jammu and Kashmir on 28 February 2019. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla

For the last three days, Mr. Khan is under treatment in SMHS hospital and the financial condition of the family is not good. Mr. Amin, the pleading of their financial condition, said with a moist eye, “We are poor, and we have no one, except Almighty.”

He has a mother and two sons at home, and restlessly waiting to steal a glimpse. “They are calling us many times a day to know their father’s condition,” Mr. Amin said. While the shells continue to cross the de-facto border, “his younger son awaits his return.”

Kaiser Andrabi is a Feature Writer at The Kashmir Walla.

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