[Gen Ranbir Singh addressing the media after surgical strike.]
Srinagar: Panic, confusion and disbelief gripped Kashmir residents on Thursday as India said it carried out surgical strikes at terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) inflicting heavy casualties on terrorists and their supporters.
Reports from Uri sector in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, where cross-border terrorist attack at an army camp on September 18 left 18 Indian troops killed, said people living close to the LoC have already started migrating to safer areas.
People were seen rushing home earlier than usual in Srinagar as the news of the surgical strikes by Indian special forces spread.
The Kashmir Valley has been shut for 83 consecutive days, following the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. However, there is no curfew anywhere in the valley.
"Whether a knife falls on a melon or a melon falls on the knife, it is always the melon that gets cut," said Zahoor Ahmad, 52, a businessman in north Kashmir's Ganderbal district.
"In wars between India and Pakistan, the Kashmiris have always been the worst sufferers and if, God forbid, a war breaks out now, we would be at the receiving end again," he stressed.
"Is the worst still to come? Is it already lurking in the dark? Will they (India and Pakistan) really be so mad so as to start a war which will destroy both?" cynically asked Abdul Gani, 58, while recalling the horrors of the 1965 war when he was a child.
"My mother would hide us in a dark room after serving an early dinner and speak in whispers," Gani recalled.
There were others who wished to believe that there would be no war, given Pakistan's denial of surgical strikes by India.
"I think it is just cross-border firing in which two Pakistani soldiers have been killed and nine others injured, which is being overplayed to satisfy bruised egos," said Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, a college principal.
"I don't think any country, much less a country like Pakistan, would eat a humble pie by not even admitting that an incident like surgical strikes within their territory had taken place," he added.
"People have started shifting with their families to safer places away from the LoC in Uri areas after today's (Thursday) development," said an official.
Reports said the Centre had spoken to the state government about "hot pursuit launched across the LoC against militants ready to infiltrate into J&K", but there was no official word so far from any leader of the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition over the development.
A senior state minister said it was a wait-and-watch situation while contingency plans about evacuation of the border area residents were already in place.
"We are glued to our television. These TV channels have already declared a war even before the fighter planes start hovering over our heads," said local lawyer Suhail Ahmad, 32.
"It appears that everybody anchoring news programmes on TV news channels is a foot soldier already fighting a full-fledged war," he added.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)