“We had to leave our home, our possessions, everything we had no choice.”Fear stake in Kashmir.

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The air is cool and the surrounding peaks are capped with snow, blindingly white in the early Spring sun. But the tremor and the terror in Mohammad Riyad’s voice as he recalls what happened in the middle of the night in late February betrays the true reality of the situation. Riyad lives in a small village just beyond the town of Uri, in the shadow of the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides this disputed region between India and Pakistan. It is one of the world’s most militarized frontiers, the site of frequent armed showdowns between the two nuclear foes, both of which claim Kashmir in its entirety.
Violence here is always just a hair trigger away. Shelling across the frontier is common. According to official figures tabled in the Indian parliament in March last year, cross border firing incidents along the LoC have risen dramatically in recent years, from 152 in 2015 to 860 in 2017. Riyad and numerous other local residents say the situation has worsened in recent weeks. “I was asleep when a shell landed right outside my window,” he says, his voice cracking as he lifts up his shirt to reveal what happened next: Shrapnel rained down on his bed, splitting open his abdomen. Thankfully, he says, his wife and children were sleeping away from the window and escaped without any injuries. The family remains fearful of further attacks. Shelling across the frontier is common. According to official figures tabled in the Indian parliament in March last year, cross border firing incidents along the LoC have risen dramatically in recent years, from 152 in 2015 to 860 in 2017. Riyad and numerous other local residents say the situation has worsened in recent weeks.
“I was asleep when a shell landed right outside my window,” he says, his voice cracking as he lifts up his shirt to reveal what happened next: Shrapnel rained down on his bed, splitting open his abdomen. Emergency surgery in Srinagar, main city in Indian controlled Kashmir, saved his life. A blackish ladder of stitches runs up and across his stomach.
Thankfully, he says, his wife and children were sleeping away from the window and escaped without any injuries. The family remains fearful of further attacks. “It could happen again tonight.”Tensions across the region spiked after a February 14 car bomb attack on Indian forces in south Kashmir. Forty Indian paramilitaries died, making it the worst ever attack on Indian forces stationed here. The pilot’s quick release helped reduce hostilities, pulling the two countries back from a violent spiral that many observers feared could tip into all out war and, in the most extreme scenario, even give rise to a nuclear clash. But, locals here say, the two sides continue to fire artillery shells across the LoC, each side blaming the other for the violence. Meanwhile, as India gears up for national elections set to begin on April 11, the conflict has become a major campaign issue, with India’s nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies holding up the recent air skirmishes as proof that he’s strong on defense — stronger, they insist, than his predecessors and rivals. Modi has also referred to the border tensions. “Enough is enough,”referring to the February attack, and an earlier 2016 attack on a military installation in Uri.

“We cannot keep suffering till eternity.”

“We had to leave our home, our possessions, everything we had no choice.”

With Kashmir still tense, they’ve become refugees in their own land.

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