On the night of October 5, Ram Lal was sleeping on the rooftop of his home in the small border village of Arnia in Jammu. As he woke just before dawn, a shell fired by the Pakistan army landed on his neighbour’s house. Several splinters pierced Ram Lal's skull, killing him instantaneously. His 40-year-old son, Rudjud Ram pointed to a patch of blood on the roof. “People are losing lives while politicians are playing politics,” he said.

The exchange of mortar and shell fire that erupts periodically between India and Pakistan has left people in the border villages very angry about the failure of the two nations to resolve their problems.

At least eight people have died, 100 have been injured and more than 30,000 forced to take refuge in relief camps since the latest barrage of fire between India and Pakistan started on October 3.

“The cause of these firings is Kashmir,” said Rudjud Ram. “Nothing changes with the change of the government. Whether it is Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party, the fight doesn’t stop. India should either take control of the Kashmir Valley completely or give it away.”

His neighbor, Pawan Kumar, quickly interjected, “We won’t give Kashmir.  If we will give it away then our home will go too.”

Infiltration worries

Though they have never seen a militant in their village, people in Arnia are convinced militants are crossing over the border. Despite layers of fencing and guard posts along the border, India accuses Pakistan of using mortar fire as a shield to help militants cross over into Kashmir. However the border along the Jammu division is not the preferred route of infiltration. Over the years of the conflict, militants have used the Line of Control in the Kashmir Valley to the north more successfully.

Indian officials say around 200 militants are currently waiting to infiltrate the Valley across the Line of Control. A few days ago, General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Chinar Corps, Lt Gen Subrata Saha, said that 18 militants have been killed since September 1, mainly while trying to infiltrate the LoC.

A daily newspaper in Kashmir quoted a senior official from the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying that by September, 60 militants had infiltrated north Kashmir. The ministry is expecting more attempts in the near future, he said.

“The conflict has been on for 67 years,” said an injured soldier of the Border Security Force, as he recuperated in a Jammu hospital. “Since India and Pakistan became free countries this has been happening. There are slopes and streams near the border and we can’t stop every attempt of infiltration. The countries should agree to ceasefire and then only this can be solved. But in Kashmir, people are getting killed because of the interests of politicians.”