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People call for end to hostilities as tension surges

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Srinagar, Feb 26: Tension was palpable in Kashmir on Tuesday after Indian Air Force fighter jets struck deep inside the Pakistan territory.

Across the Kashmir Valley and in the plains of Jammu, groups of people were seen huddling together and discussing the possible fallout on their everyday lives if tensions escalated between the two countries.

"We hope it ends here and there is no more escalation. If there is escalation in hostilities, it will be people on either side of the Line of Control who will suffer the most," said Abdul Gani Dar.

The 80-year-old resident of Srinagar has witnessed all the wars between India and Pakistan and is hoping he doesn't have to witness any more escalation of hostilities.

In the early hours of Tuesday, India launched an air strike on a “Jaish-e-Mohammad camp” about 80 km inside Pakistan in Balakot with officials saying “a large number of terrorists, trainers and commanders were killed”.

In Pakistan, the government strongly rejected India's claim of targeting a militant camp in the country and causing heavy casualties and vowed to respond "at the time and place of its choosing".

People are still recovering from the February 14 suicide bomb attack on a CRPF convoy in south Kashmir's Pulwama district in which 49 soldiers were killed, leading to additional forces being deployed in the Valley and further tension, residents said.

Residents of Kashmir went on a hoarding spree after the government launched a crackdown on separatists and Jamaat-e-Islami cadres last week. The move was followed by the deployment of 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces in the Valley, translating to 10,000 more personnel.

"First additional forces deployed, then rationing. We are not sure what is in store for us. It seems we are sandwiched and God only knows what is in store for us," said a frustrated Mohammed Amin Bhat.

The 65-year-old is a shopkeeper in Srinagar and is hoping desperately there will be some semblance of normalcy for them soon.

Insiders from the tourism industry, the mainstay of state's economy, were equally apprehensive about the situation.

Since morning, many hotels in the state had received cancellations from guests who had made bookings from across the country, they said.

In Jammu, while people rejoiced at the air strikes, there were also fears that any escalation would disrupt their lives.

The region, they said, is located closer to the international border as well as the Line of Control.

Villagers along the Line of Control in Poonch and Rajouri have been asked to shift immediately inside the bunkers in case of shelling from across the border, some residents said. (With PTI inputs)

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