Shell-shocked in Akhnoor: Life Along the LoC


Shell-shocked in Akhnoor: Life Along the LoC

Illustration: Mudit Ganguly


he last villages on the border before the Line of Control remind me of territories that were once ravaged by war. The lands of Akhnoor might never have witnessed soldiers in open hand-to-hand combat and it isn’t as if the streets are lined by bodies, but there is an overwhelming presence of death. It is indicated by the little memorials to martyred soldiers, marked with vermillion, that line the road to the district. There are reminders everywhere: In the deserted paths, swathes of godforsaken fields with rotting fruit on trees, and miles of silence broken only by the earth-shattering rounds of firing between two armies ranged on either side of a star-crossed border.

Channi is one of the frontier villages of Jammu and Kashmir’s Akhnoor district, about 300 km from Srinagar. As we drive to the village, we pass army bunkers and pickets along the way. I see a battle-tank, emblazoned with the words “Aaj Hamla Hoga (today we attack).” Those are powerful words that ring hollow in a village that has been repeatedly attacked for years. The last attack had happened a day prior. Shells had landed in Channi, killing three buffaloes and damaging a house. Most of the brick walls of the village bear bullet marks and signs of mortar shell-strikes.