Last Updated: September 17, 2023, 20:40 IST
An eerie silence engulfed a village near the Gadol forest area in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district where a gunfight between terrorists and security forces entered its fifth day. Many youngsters in this village heard the sound of bullets for the first time.
Roads are deserted and shops are closed. Every time you walk in this village, locals’ eyes gaze at you. Locals have now become familiar with the sounds of AK rifles, machine guns, grenades, and rockets.
In a harrowing landscape marred by the echoes of gunfire, a group of kids are busy with their bat and ball. Cricket has become a symbol of hope here.
“Sunday means cricket for us, we love the game,” says 12-year-old Ahmad.
Since Wednesday in the Gadol forest area, terrorists and security forces have been locked in a fierce gun battle that has been ongoing for over 100 hours now. Such a gun battle hasn’t been witnessed in Kashmir for years now.
Ahmad’s home is adjacent to the area where they were playing. His mother is worried and frequently looks for him through a window.
Three officers including two decorated Indian Army men — a colonel of 19 Rashtriya Rifles — a counter-insurgency force — and a Major rank officer were killed in the encounter. A young Deputy Superintendent of J&K Police Humayun Bhat was also killed in the exchange of fire.
Ahmad is joined by his friends who never skip summer Sundays to play the game. “We haven’t heard gunfire in this area before,” he said while replying to a question.
The simple joy of game reverberates in this village covered with the Himalayan mountain range. Like Ahmad, Anzar is also excited to play with his friends and wants to play for Team India one day. “I never miss a game of cricket. Even bullets can’t stop us,” Anzar says jokingly. He says that the field where they usually go to play is near the encounter spot and in the firing range.
“We chose to play here as helicopters have been landing there. We can hit bigger shots there and not worry about losing our boll,” he says.
Their game comes to an end as thunder roars and a downpour makes the pitch wet and unplayable. Their game may have come to an end but soldiers in the mountains are fighting terrorists.