By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Feb 26 (IANS) Tension was palpable on Tuesday in the Kashmir Valley as news spread that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had hit Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) training camps in Balakot in Pakistan.
Kashmiris woke up on Tuesday when TV news channels were agog with reports that the IAF jets bombed terror camps in Balakot.
Everywhere on the street, small groups of people were seen discussing the fallout of the development.
Tuesday’s air strikes happened after 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces were airlifted to the Kashmir Valley.
Locals had doubted the official statements that the airlifting of the additional paramilitary forces was part of the preparatory exercise for the Lok Sabha elections.
The common man in the Valley is visibly disturbed over what might happen now.
“We always believed that whenever the two countries decide to target each other, they would do the same across the LoC. India says we have avenged the Pulwama attack. Pakistan is now saying they reserve the right to retaliate,” said Bashir Ahmed, a retired government servant.
“Where will both retaliation and counter retaliation happen? I have no doubt if that happens, Jammu and Kashmir will have to bear the brunt of such hostilities,” he added.
Locals fear the worst.
Asked how he reacts to the development, Ali Muhammad Dar, a resident of Badgam district, said: “Whatever is in our destiny will happen. I did not go out today. It is better to be with your family during such times.”
Abdul Gani, who lives in Saidpora area of Ganderbal district, said: “I am worried. Do we have to start digging trenches?”
The fear in Gani’s voice betrayed that his comment was not a joke.
Those better informed through newspapers and news channels were unsure about whether or not the air strike by India would settle the tension or worsen matters further.
“I told you yesterday and I must repeat it today. Armed conflicts once started take their own course without either side being in control to decide where such hostilities will end,” said Professor Muzaffar Ahmed, a retired college principal.
Those who earn their daily bread on a day-to-day basis are doubly disturbed.
“I fear being caught in the hostilities and fear losing my daily bread if the situation here takes an ugly turn. It is both ways a defeat for poor Kashmiris like me,” said Mohammad Maqbool, a mason in Badgam.
Parents here are worried about the education of their children.
Schools and colleges have been closed for two months because of the winter vacation and these are scheduled to re-open early next month in the Valley.
“If tensions mount further due to relations between India and Pakistan resulting in military hostilities, how can the educational institutions function normally?” wondered Javed Ahmad, whose two sons attend a school in Srinagar city.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])