The Line of Control (LoC) is a dotted line on the map of South Asia, which bisects the Jammu & Kashmir region representing its contested status between India and Pakistan.
About 800 kilometres long, the LoC, which is also termed the Ceasefire Line, originates from the river Tawi near Jammu and ends at the snow-capped mountains in Kargil.
It is amongst one of the most heavily militarised separation barriers of the world. On the ground, it’s a fenced boundary that is entangled with several metres high double-row barbed-wire that passes through valleys and hillocks, mountains and rivulets. Apart from the barbed-wire, the Indian military has installed floodlights, surveillance equipment, seismic imaging devices and audio sensors to monitor any movement in the area. These gadgets are in addition to a round-the-clock patrol maintained by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel.
In the last few weeks, the inviolability of the LoC has been questioned several times. A total of nine Pakistani and eight Indian civilians have reportedly been killed in a fresh escalation of tension on this border. Historically, it’s a soldier’s nightmare and a civilian’s death trap. The blotted history of mistrust and suspicion between India and Pakistan is marked by a poisonous verbosity from hostile politicians and supported by jingoistic national media, all of which has proved itself to be much stronger than ceasefire agreements or the lofty ideal of peaceful co-existence.
Around the world, separation barriers are constructed to limit the movement of people across a region or to separate two populations. The current map of the world depicts an alarming increase in these fences, though, a few of them are strategically important. Jammu & Kashmir’s split-up is deemed a nuclear flashpoint, as Pakistan and India are nuclear states.
The installation of a security barricade is stimulated by a sense of protection. Yet, the human implication of such manoeuvre in conflict-ridden area is irreparable.
The civilian population was there before the military barrier was installed. Though, a major part of the LoC is covered by forest blocks and hilly terrain that runs through a mountainous region, some of its locations present a typical picture of division of cultivable land; a peasant’s house in India and his arable land in Pakistan.
Political impulsiveness, instability and the mercurial nature of geo-political relations amongst neighbouring states in the whole South Asian region has always proved to be a catalyst for increased tension on the LoC. The temperament of forces deployed here is guided and goaded by political happenings in the region. In recent months, there has been a growing debate in Pakistan that instability of political setup in the country is causing disturbance along the LoC.
However, there is another exclamation in Pakistan that Indian government is working behind the scenes to implement its agenda of downsizing the role of separatist elements in electoral politics of the disputed region. Also, an atmosphere of aggressiveness can divert public outcry from the administrative failure in the aftermath
of a natural disaster and can prove productive to fulfil the political ambitions vis-à-vis the so-called Mission 44.
The Mission 44 is a stated electoral agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the next government in Jammu & Kashmir. The BJP has never been able to independently form a government and has traditionally been considered a negligible political force. The Indian locus to fortify an intra-state border is in contradiction with its territorial claims. India has historically claimed a territorial right over the entire state, whereas, an expenditure of millions of dollars to erect a short-term borderline within the state implies that current Indian government is willing to withdraw its right on the other part of the state which is under Pakistan’s administration.
Pakistan’s stated position on the LoC is that the border in Jammu and Kashmir is un-demarcated and any measure to alter its status or to erect permanent obstacles is a direct violation of India’s international obligations. Perhaps, the challenge to establish India’s authority over whole Jammu & Kashmir is bigger than the BJP’s speculations. It is a vibrant society with an established history of resistance against coercion. Over one billion people simply can’t put
barricades alongside their courtyards. Hundreds of villages and grazing areas of inhabitants of those villages have virtually been traversed by the LoC.
Despite the explosive nature of the military zone, Kashmir grazers habitually take their cattle to farmlands where they are always on mercy of rival forces. A fence can only make access of annoying elements difficult, but not impossible. Putting barricades in peoples’ pastures, without asking them, can never be a welcome move.
For Kashmiris, the LoC is not only a symbol of state interference in social life, but also, an emotional object representing the importance of cross-border alliances. In this sense, the areas along the LoC represent a social structure where state-owned military paraphernalia is considered a symbol of authority; not protection.
The LoC iconizes the state as an indeterminate sovereign power that has a merciless business of showing power to its neighbour upon the bodies and souls of its subjects. The very notion of showing strength to neighbours has characteristically shaped the underlying fabric of India-Pakistan relations. A neighbourhood is no longer a place where charity begins; it’s an abandoned farmland, a deserted house or a dwelling of devils and demons.