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Jammu KashmirCeasefire dividends: Play field in Gurez comes alive with cricket

Ceasefire dividends: Play field in Gurez comes alive with cricket


Bandipora, Dec 29: A playfield located in between the high mountains of Bagtore, a small village barely a kilometre away from the Line of Control (LoC) in Bandipora's Gurez sector, has transformed into a hotspot for enthusiasts, hosting 15 tournaments this year with over 30 participating teams—a sight never seen before.

Transforming from shelling to the yells of ‘out, catch, six', the playfield drew a substantial influx of visitors and spectators this year. The crowd cheered for their respective teams in matches.

Bagtore, which was once famous for its volatility in north 's Gurez as shells from across would always land here, has now turned into an attraction as a large number of youth are visiting this place for sports activities. Not only catchment areas, youth from far off places are coming here to play cricket.

“A few years ago, sportsmen of the village were thirsty to play on the field. However, ever since a ceasefire between the two nations was announced, the playfield is now making a lot of noise over cricket, replacing the rattle of the shelling that caused death and destruction to its residents for decades,” the locals informed.

The playfield is surrounded by small security bunkers of the army on two sides which was always a target from the other side of the Line of Control before 2021 but now the youngsters as well as elders are making huge noise in it while watching cricket matches and other sports activities.

The locals of Bagtore are visibly happy after the guns fell silent on February 25, 2021, when in a surprise development the armies of both countries announced the ceasefire and recommitted themselves to the 2003 Vajpayee-era ceasefire agreement.

Mohammad Saleem, a local with a lifelong passion for cricket, reflects on his childhood frustration, constantly questioning why he had to reside in a war-torn hamlet. The sight of a deserted field, where he yearned to play, added to his discontent.

Continuous warnings from his family urged Saleem to refrain from going to the field due to the constant threat of shelling that could be fatal. Despite this, he held onto hope, believing that one day conditions would improve, and destiny would change. “Playing on the field is like playing in heaven,” he said.

The playing field bore the brunt of shelling between the two armies, with artillery shells from the opposite side of the LoC falling and causing the ground to shake. The atmosphere was marked by mourning and destruction, leaving the community anxious about when their dreams and aspirations would materialize.

In 2021, the long-awaited positive change arrived with the implementation of the ceasefire agreement by both countries. Saleem's grandfather, informed through the radio, rejoiced at the news of peace on the borders, envisioning a transformative destiny for the region.

Over the past two years, a noticeable social change has unfolded in the area, with people engrossed in their pursuits. The once-deserted playfield is now a vibrant gathering spot, attracting a crowd of spectators during cricket matches.

Arif Ahmad, another local, said that the panic caused by shelling is no longer visible, and the region resonates with sounds of peace and happiness.

He celebrates the transition of the village's playfield from a war zone to a safe haven for sports enthusiasts. He expresses hope for increased attention to Gurez for sightseeing and adventure sports like trekking and rafting.

The tournament organizers saw a significant surge in activity at the playground this year, as local youth arranged numerous cricket tournaments. “Teams from Bandipora, Sopore, and various other parts of the valley actively participated in these events,” they said.

Notably, this playfield transforms during snowfall into a venue for snow cricket, a unique sporting experience. “Plans are underway this year to once again organize snow cricket, aiming to enhance our valley's visibility on the map,” they added.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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