Kashmir Tales: Bridging the Divide

Published: 06th November 2014 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th November 2014 06:04 AM   |  A+A-


BENGALURU: After a night’s rest in the cool, hilly environs of Tangdar, we made our way to the last post of India, Tithwal, where the Indian army is face to face with Pakistani soldiers across the Line of Control which is the Kishanganga river itself. We had to walk the last three kilometers across a dirt track, criss-crossing bridges, terraced fields and undulating land to reach this remote place, but our hearts were gladdened to hear the rushing sound of a river that runs across the dividing boundary between the two countries.

Tithwal, known as the Chutney Division, is not easily accessible because of its proximity to the border and so one can hardly see any tourists or even for that matter, any officials on the Indian side because of frequent firing and shelling by Pakistan on the sparsely populated villages. However, lately, that has stopped to some extent. Lack of connectivity, jobs and roads dogs this border village. As it is, Tithwal remains closed for six months in a year and in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, it was so badly hit, that it took years to recover.

There are ten villages in Tithwal and once, we cross Chaliyan, the last village on the Indian side, starts the Neelam Valley in Pakistan which is verdant and picturesque. With the establishment of a crossing point here, people from the Indian side can cross the Tithwal Bridge to meet their relatives and friends in the Pakistan side but this happens only twice a month. One can see check posts on their side as well as heavy movement of traffic on the Neelam River Valley Road that leads to Muzzafarabad.

At Tithwal, there is a war memorial which commemorates the liberation of Kashmir from Pakistani raiders in 1948 and is celebrated by the Indian Army as the Tithwal Day by holding sports and cultural events for  ten days. Prior to the war, these villages were in one country, but now families, relatives, and their property have been divided into two halves and every fortnight, they have to wait to meet their near and dear ones, crossing the Tithwal Bridge.

Apart from the memorial and a sports stadium, there is not much to see here, but one can sit for hours together gazing at the pristine river. The crystal blue waters of the Kishanganga which is known as River Neelam on the other side traverses a distance of 245 kilometers before entering Pakistan Occupied Kashmir at Gurais sector on the LOC.

Taking origins in the Krishansar Lake in Sonamarg, this river flowing through many villages of Keran sector and supplemented by other glacial tributaries, has made these remote parts very fertile and also the most beautiful spot in northern Kashmir. Going to these places is not so easy as one has to take permission from the police or the army and traverse across harsh mountainous terrains but return before sundown.-


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