JAOURA, India—At 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, Balbir Kumar, his wife, and their two children were awoken by the crash of an 81mm mortar round hitting their roof, chunks of concrete, brick, and plaster cascading down onto the floor of their prayer room.
“We got very scared and my children started to run in different directions,” Kumar said.
Kumar lives in a small village called Jaoura in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state, just 500 yards from the disputed border with Pakistan.
Almost every house in Jaoura now bears marks of Pakistani shelling.
Concrete homes were damaged in the Aug. 24 shelling of Jaoura, near the border with Pakistan. Aug. 27, 2014. (Venus Upadhayaya/Epoch Times)
About 50 yards behind Kumar’s house, a cluster of mud and thatch huts belongs to the family of a nomadic tribe called the Gujjars.
“When the firing broke out, the Gujjar man and his family came out looking for safety. Just then a mortar exploded right in front, killing him and his son on the spot. His wife lost her arm and two others were injured. They are lying in the hospital,” Kumar explained.
In the past two weeks, there have been 16 firing and shelling incidents like this along the Pakistan border, according to the Hindustan Times. Many are directed at Indian military outposts, but sometimes civilians get caught in the middle.
On Wednesday, army officials from India and Pakistan met to negotiate. India blames Pakistan for violating their ceasefire agreement 20 times this year, the most since the agreement was signed in 2003.
An 81mm mortar shell fired from across the border with Pakistan into the Indian village of Jaoura. The empty shells were collected by Shankar Chand, whose house’s roof and ceiling were partially damaged in the Aug. 24 firing. Photo taken Aug. 27, 2014. (Venus Upadhayaya/Epoch Times)
A Prosperous Village
Shattered windows and bullet-ridden cement aside, Jaoura otherwise appears to be a peaceful, prosperous village, with brightly painted houses and lush green paddy fields.
Like many villages along the mountainous India-Pakistan border, Jaoura grows a variety of Basmati rice. With a market price four times higher than standard Indian rice, it sustains the livelihood of most families here, families that have worked the land for generations. Despite the deadly threat of Pakistani shelling, most villagers cannot think of relocating.
For the time being, Balbir Kumar’s wife, mother, and children are taking shelter in an army camp three miles from the border, just beyond the range of the mortars.
But Kumar stays home.
“I built this house just seven months ago. I have to come here everyday because I work in a government farm nearby and I also need to check if things are right at home,” said Kumar.
Empty shells from light and heavy weapons fired into Jaoura from across the border with Pakistan. The empty shells were collected by Shankar Chand, whose house’s roof and ceiling were partially damaged in the Aug. 24 firing. Photo taken Aug. 27, 2014. (Venus Upadhayaya/Epoch Times)
Kumar and other men in the village are concerned that while their families take shelter in the army camp, thieves may try to loot their homes.
“Sometimes we are running there and sometimes we are running here,” Kumar said. “We don’t have peace of mind, but we have to live here.”