Planting peace: India-Pakistan border ceasefire revives agricultural activities

An elderly Kashmiri farmer harvests potatoes on June 22, 2012 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Administered Kashmir, India
9 min read
12 September, 2022

After nearly two decades, the fields near the Line of Control (LoC) in the Rajouri and Poonch districts of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir are once again witnessing a flourishing of activities, courtesy of a border ceasefire announced between the armies of India and Pakistan last year. 

Following the border ceasefire agreement between the respective Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan, not a single ceasefire violation has been reported from any sector along the LoC, according to officials.

Local villagers and farmers in several villages along the LoC in the Nowshera sector of Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir have been the biggest beneficiaries of the border ceasefire between the two nations.

"Our only request to both nations [India and Pakistan] is to make the border ceasefire a permanent feature so that we can finally live in peace"

After the ceasefire, residents of villages along the LoC can finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

Unlike in the past, when frequent border shelling endangered their lives and confined them to their homes, the local villagers say they are now able to freely venture out to work in their fields.

No fear of shelling

“We are now able to take out our animals grazing without fear of shelling. [Before the ceasefire] Many of our animals were killed or injured during frequent border shelling,” said Ramesh Choudry, a local resident of Deeing Kalal village of Rajouri district which lies close to the Zero Line along the LoC.

“We couldn't work in the fields, even labourers would hesitate to work due to fears of shelling,” said Choudry. “But now that has changed and we have resumed our agriculture activities."

A Pakistani Kashmiri family flee from their house along with their livestock following cross border shelling [Getty Images]
A Pakistani Kashmiri family flee from their house along with their livestock following cross border shelling [Getty Images]

Villages on the border have a population of about 20,000 people, in the villages of Deeing Kalal, Manoegte, Khori baba, Seri, Manpur, Danaka, Gania, Shyal. Local residents say that the land is fertile and almost all households are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

Frequent border shelling from both sides of the border meant that the local farmers were not even able to sow their seeds in time which prevented them from growing seasonal crops and vegetables, despite the fertility of the land.

The villages situated on the Zero Line - close to the LoC -  like Deeing and Kalal villages in the Nowshera sector were the most affected.

In addition to the loss of lives over the years, houses and the livestock of villages were also damaged in the border shelling as the two armies exchanged artillery fire.


“Young people could neither go out to work in other neighbouring states as they feared for the safety of their families back home.

"All construction activities were halted as labourers and contractors stayed away from the villages affected by the border shelling. The local village economy was badly hit as a result,” said another resident of Deeing Kalal village.

But things have changed since the announcement of the ceasefire last year. As villagers have returned to their fields, agricultural activities and crop cultivation has increased.

They are now able to grow many crops like mustard, maize, and vegetables, not only consumed by residents but sold in the markets outside the villages, which has improved their livelihood. Many local youths are also freely able to leave their villages and work in other Indian states like Punjab without fearing for the safety of their families back home.

The worst of the shelling

The villages along the LoC witnessed the worst border shelling after August 5, 2019 following the revocation of the autonomous status of the region by the ruling BJP government in New Delhi and the subsequent bifurcation of the state into two federally governed union territories.

“Some 300-400 artillery shells landed in the villages here after August 5, 2019, forcing the villagers to stay indoors for weeks. We were unable to cultivate our crops and take out our animals for grazing in the nearby forests,” said Hans Raj, another local resident of Deeing village.

“Before the ceasefire, many local villagers sold their cows as we couldn’t take them out but after the ceasefire was announced last year, the villagers are again buying and keeping cows and taking care of their fields,” he said.

Since the opening of the Line of Control between Pakistan and Kashmir, cheaper Pakistani potatoes, imported with no duties that cost between 18 and 38 percent less, have been increasingly imported into Kashmir
Since the opening of the Line of Control, cheaper Pakistani potatoes, imported with no duties now cost between 18 and 38 percent less [Getty Images]

Increased developmental activities

The successful ceasefire and ensuing peace on the LoC for more than a year has also resulted in increased developmental activities in the villages as outside labourers and contractors have returned to the villages to engage in various construction and developmental activities.

The development activities resumed post ceasefire last year including roads and a new bridge being constructed by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) in Deeing Panchayat.

Construction work has also resumed on the high school building and a library that is being erected in Deeing Kalal Panchayat.

Following the ceasefire, construction has also resumed on about 250 border bunkers in the border villages which had to be made by the government post-2019 for residents of border villages to minimize loss of lives in case of border shelling.

The local villagers are able to successfully cultivate different crops and the resulting product over the past year was also sold in outside markets.

Vegetables including onions, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, and cauliflower are being increasingly grown in the vegetable fields.

Wheat and mustard crops are also being increasingly cultivated now by the local villagers in these border villages. Local villagers said that it is for the first time that they've started cultivating mustard crops after the ceasefire.

More local villagers are also buying animals which were earlier sold in distress due to the frequent border shelling. The local farmers are also acquiring better seeds and other agricultural tools to improve their crop cultivation.

Before the ceasefire, the local villagers were unable to take care of their fields or cultivate crops, fearing that the shells could land anytime anywhere in their fields which prevented them from venturing out much into the fields. This meant they rarely looked for better seeds and agriculture tools for their fields as agricultural activities were disrupted.

"Due to the uncertainty caused by regular shelling along the LoC, farmers were reluctant to cultivate their fields which affected their production, as a result, more than 50 percent of fields were left uncultivated"

The villagers living along the LoC are hoping that the present ceasefire lasts longer between the two nations. Every time relations between the two nations deteriorate, it is the people living along the LoC who bear the brunt.

“In our village, three people lost their lives and many houses were also damaged in border shelling before the ceasefire,” said Raj. “Many people also left the villages due to frequent shelling in the past but poor people suffer the most as they can’t go anywhere.”

Dr Arvind Kumar Ishar, senior scientist and head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Rajouri said that agriculture and allied activities had come to halt in villages along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts before the ceasefire.

“Due to uncertainty and regular shelling in villages along the LoC, farmers were reluctant to cultivate their fields which also affected the production, as a result, more than 50 percent of fields were left uncultivated due to uncertainty of shelling and threat to life,” said Dr Arvind.

“The mortality of domestic animals, especially milch animals, due to frequent mortar shells resulted in a considerable decrease in the number of animals in these villages as farmers avoided rearing such animals,” he said adding that another threat was the fire triggered in the standing ripe crop due to cross firing and live shells landing in the fields. 

Dr Arvind said that small and marginal farmers were also forced to abandon their villages and work as labourers in the nearby towns which pushed the farmers towards poverty.

“This also affected the education of their children. The schools were forced to remain closed,” he said. 

Following the ceasefire, Dr Arvind said that almost all the agricultural land is now being cultivated by the farmers, making especially the marginal farmers self-dependent as far as the production of cereals and milk is concerned.

“Some of the villages in Rajouri like Ser Makdi, Kalal, Seri, Jahngar, Ganya etc. have been producing surplus milk and are fetching good income from the sale of their produce. The farmers of these villages are now selling their milk to milk companies and earning a handsome income,” said Dr Arvind.

Improved economic status

The economic status of the farmers has also considerably improved a year after the ceasefire was announced in these border villages.

“Naah- Kalasra and Menka are some of the other villages which were worst affected by cross-border shelling earlier but now these villages are surplus producers of maize, wheat and mustard,” he said.

Another positive effect of the border ceasefire is that scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendras and field staff of agriculture and allied departments are now able to visit these villages freely and frequently while also organising various training and awareness programs which has “further increased the production and overall farm income of these farmers.”

A government official from the Nowshera sector said that agriculture and other developmental activities have increased over the past year of the ceasefire in the border areas in the Nowshera sector.

“People are again growing wheat and maize crops which are the two main crops grown in the hilly border villages of Nowshera sector,” the official said.

Beyond the politics and rivalries of the two nations, all border residents want is the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. They want all the disputes between the two nations, including that of Kashmir, to be resolved through dialogue as it has a direct bearing on their lives on the ground.

“Our only request to both nations is to make the border ceasefire a permanent feature so that we can live in peace here and get on with our lives without the fear of shells again landing on our homes, fields and animals,” said Raj. “Let’s give peace a chance and let people on both sides of the border live in peace now.”

Majid Maqbool is an award-winning journalist and writer based in Indian-administered Kashmir

Follow him on Twitter: @MaqboolMajid