The little district that echoed of explosions and gunshots on Sunday morning is usually calm and tucked away in a corner of Kashmir. With just one road linking Uri to the rest of the Valley, it is generally far from headlines and news debates. The other reason for peace in Uri is the cordial relationship it shares with the Army.
A small town with one hospital, a police station, no petrol pump and few government schools, people residing there depend heavily on the Army. In fact, the road connecting Uri with villages towards Salamabad and Kaman bridge, all the way to Muzzaffarabad passes through army garrison. Follow LIVE coverage of Uri attack’s aftermath here
It is commonplace for the villagers to visit the Army hospital for treatment and sending their children to the Army school for studying. Local are acquainted with the soldiers and some are even friends with them. This tranquillity and a routinely life was however disrupted on Sunday.
When initial shots were fired, locals thought did not panic much. since it is a narrow valley, sound usually reverberates. With smoke rising in the air and few more gunshots, many thought that some building or market must have caught fire. But when the news of 17 jawans being killed travelled through Uri, fear engulfed the otherwise peaceful district.
People started counting the number of helicopters flying over the base. Many were glued to their television sets.
Talking to The Indian Express, Waheeda Lone, who lives only a few metres from the main gate of the Army camp, said, “Such an attack has never happened here so I thought something may have caught fire. Once the TV vans started arriving, I switched on my own set. I sat at my window all day.”
Talk soon went around town about seven-eight unknown boys seen roaming around the area. Some claimed to have seen them a day ahead of Eid, asking for directions near the TV tower overlooking the garrison. They were looking for Gawahalan Singtung village, others said.
A resident with sources in the garrison said that the militants had cut the fence to get in. “The Army’s Devi Post is located 100 metres above the place where the attack happened. Perhaps the Armymen didn’t see them (the terrorists) sneaking in. Those who spoke to me are certain the militants came from the side of Sukhdar village, 4 km away. That is the only village there, and the LoC is an hour-long journey away, through a jungle,” reports The Indian Express.
The gunfire and explosions ceased and a lock hung on the spot where the road from the village connected the garrison. Uri might have regained the peace, but a sombre breeze now blew across the district.