India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

By Paul R. Dettman | Go to book overview

13

Kargil “War” Repercussions

While India's army and air force were engaged in driving the Pakistani invaders back to their side of the LOC and India's diplomats were winning international support for the Indian cause, the Kargil “war” was having its impact on India's domestic front. The villages along the Indian side of the LOC in Kargil District were the first to feel the repercussions of the fighting. Heavy shelling coming from the Pakistani side of the LOC sought to disrupt the Indian army's mobilization and movement of men and supplies to the fighting front. Village homes and shops were hit, and villagers were killed and wounded. The result was that almost all of the civilian population, estimated at 50,000 men, women, and children, were forced to flee. Their flight was followed by the evacuation of almost 200 villages located at other points along the Indian side of the LOC, whose residents feared that the invasion in Kargil District was the prelude to a general Pakistani offensive in Kashmir. Civilian panic then spread to the Punjab, where almost 90% of the population living in border areas where fighting had gone on during the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war and the 1971 Bangladesh war, some 180,000 people, moved to other parts of the state where they would not have to fear the threat of Pakistani invaders. One of the Punjabi village leaders expressed the feeling that prompted them to move: “We are leaving the village due to war-like situation as the army has taken over and we cannot let our children die. Moreover, we still have not forgotten the previous two wars in which we were completely ruined. In this situation, how can we wait for the war to begin?”

Such panic reactions were limited to Kashmir and the Pakistani border areas in the Punjab. The Indian people as a whole remained relatively calm, and, for the most part, life continued to follow peacetime ways. Some signs began to appear of what might have become a general wartime fever if the Kargil fighting had lasted more than two and a half months. Pakistani TV channels were banned by the information and broadcasting minister. Web sites of Pakistani newspapers

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