Shell-shocked: 20 years on an eyewitness recalls bloody Kargil War 

WION Srinagar Jul 24, 2019, 01.52 PM(IST) Written By: Ieshan Bashir Wani

20 years ago, the Indian army recaptured all the posts and positions in Kargil which were occupied by the Pakistan Army. Photograph:( DNA )

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"The entire market and the city was deserted with no signs of civilians after shells started to land here, people left their homes and moved back to villages and safer locations," says Mohammad Shafi, now 78. 

Mohammad Abbas is old now. His words are hard to understand as all his incisors have gone. Abbas glues his eyes on the incoming customers at a small shoe shop located inside an enclosed market in Kargil city, which witnessed heavy shelling by Pakistan Army during the war in 1999. 

Hailing from Srinagar, Abbas like many others has witnessed the deaths which occurred during the initial stage of the war. "It's not easy to forget dead bodies," he says while brushing the dust from the shoes which have been put on display. 

"A shell landed here in front of this market, people started running in all directions, as smoke filled the air," says Abbas.

He shivers as he recalls what he saw that day. "There was blood around my shop and the market, that's all I could see initially. Later, people were lying in pool of blood, all civilians," he says while pointing at the location where a shell had landed. 

"We took injured people to the hospital but as we reached, shells landed near the hospital, it was just chaos everywhere," he says as rage fills his face. 

Six people died in the market, among them were Buddhist girls who were selling daily items, Abbas says as he takes a break. 

The aroma of fresh apricots fill the market, there is a variety of dry fruits being sold by young and old. While young seem to have less knowledge about the Kargil war, the old haven't forgotten their struggle. 

"The entire market and the city was deserted with no signs of civilians after shells started to land here, people left their homes and moved back to villages and safer locations," says Mohammad Shafi, now 78-years-old. 

Shafi runs a general store at the main market. His shop was shut for months as the war raged between India and Pakistan. "I moved with my children and cattle to a safer location. There was no ration for days and shops were shut," he recalls while sitting in his shop. Things have changed now," he adds.

Mohammad says that the government paid compensation to the families of those who lost their lives.  There are many like them, who have stories to tell while some are afraid to recall, others just wish no such war repeats again. 

20 years ago, the Indian army recaptured all the posts and positions in Kargil which were occupied by the Pakistan Army.