Gunfire Day and Night in Pakistani Kashmir With AM-Bitter Kashmir
TRITRINOTE, Pakistan (AP) _ At first glance, this is a fairy-tale village: tidy adobe huts in a lush mountain valley, clear streams that nourish the terraced wheat fields.
Within moments, the peace is shattered by the pop of gunfire, the roar of military trucks along a dirt road, the curses of villagers trapped in the decades-old dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.
″Look what the Indians have done to my house,″ said Mangho Khan, an elderly man with a full white beard. His home, pocked with dozens of bullet holes on one side, is just 300 yards from the line that divides Kashmir.
″We can’t even sleep in the bedroom,″ which faces the border, Khan said. ″We have to sleep in the kitchen.″
The two countries have fought over Kashmir since they became independent of Britain in 1947. Today, their soldiers shoot at each other daily across the cease-fire line established by the United Nations in 1949.
Pakistanis claim Indian soldiers fire on their border villages indiscriminately, although the villagers are not directly involved in the 4- year-old Muslim insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir.
Indians claim Pakistan arms and trains Muslim rebels who cross the frontier through thick woods.
The scene at Tritrinote is repeated at dozens of places along the border. Indian soldiers occupy a ridge overlooking the village, and Pakistani troops have built sandbagged bunkers among the huts.
In the Tritrinote area, 18 people were killed and 103 wounded in 465 cross- border shootings by the Indians in 1993, said Lt. Col. Inayat Wali, the Pakistan army commander in the region.
A tour of four villages turned up dozens of people with mangled or missing limbs, all saying they were victims of Indian shootings. Many were women and children. Some young men said they fled their homes on the Indian side after being tortured by Indian troops.
The lower right leg of Mohammed Hafiz, 14, was so badly broken that even a year later, it is curved like a bow. The boy said he was among several family members arrested by Indian forces last year and accused of helping the rebels.
″I was beaten day and night,″ he said. ″One night, they beat me unconscious and left me in the woods.″
Using a stick as a crutch, he walked several days to reach the village of Bandi Abbas Pur on the Pakistani side of the frontier, where he is recovering.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has spoken repeatedly about alleged Indian atrocities.
Pakistan and India spend huge sums defending their parts of Kashmir. The Indians have three layers of defense that would make regular large-scale infiltration impossible, said Brig. Ghulam Khaja, the Pakistani commander in Kashmir, who keeps watch from the mountaintop village of Kurdha.
″They have not even left room for a snake to crawl through,″ Khaja said.