As guns fall silent, wedding bells ring in Kashmir border areas again

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir

The silence of guns between Indo-Pak armies along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir since February 2021 has brought back old memories of weddings among the border residents as they now can hold the ceremonies at their own houses, shifting the events to safer locations.

In the absence of gunfire and mortar shelling along the LoC due to the reiteration of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan authorities, the villagers say they are starting to rebuild their lives and feel hopeful about the future.

“There was a time when we had to spend days inside underground bunkers to save ourselves from relentless shelling from across the LoC. It was difficult to even survive and holding a marriage event was next to impossible those days,” said Irshad Ahmad, a resident of Tangdhar in Kupwara district.

Ahmad, whose brother got married recently, said that nearly 200 guests attended the marriage. “There was festivity all around while in the previous years, we had seen only mourning as dozens of people were killed and many in shelling. We hope and pray that the ceasefire becomes a permanent feature as border residents are the worst victims,” he added.

A local news gathering agency KNO reported that at least 250 marriage ceremonies have taken place this year so far in Keran, Machil, Bangus, Tangdhar, Gurez, and Uri sectors along the LoC in north Kashmir. Three districts of north Kashmir — Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara — share the LoC with Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and thousands of people living near the LoC in these districts were battered by Indo-Pak animosity.

“Forget about holding marriage ceremonies in our home, even during funerals, there was the fear of getting caught in the shelling. But now the situation has improved for good and we are elated that wedding events are being held in our villages,” said Gul Zaman Khan, a resident of Uri in Baramulla district.

The year 2020 saw 5,100 incidents of ceasefire violations which were the all-time high since 2003. Thirty-six people were killed and 130 others wounded in 2020. The ceasefire violations led to the closure of schools and people moved to safer places leaving their houses. As the guns and heavy artillery have fallen silent on both sides of the border, residents hope India and Pakistan will soon allow cross-LoC travel, tourism, and resume, specifically, the famous Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. Suspended in 2019, the route was initially launched as a confidence-building measure and connected Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan Kashmir.__Deccan Herald