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“We have been asked to leave, but where do we go?”

india Updated: Oct 02, 2016 09:49 IST
Aseem Bassi
Aseem Bassi
Hindustan Times
attari border

Veero Kaur with her family members in Mullakot, which is 20 meters away from the fence in Amritsar. Her family has to leave their house near the Attari boarder area, but have nowhere to go. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

Surrounded by barbed wire on two sides, the village of Mullakot is right on the border fence and was captured by Pakistani troops in the 1971 war. Houses were demolished, even the trees were uprooted. Only the gurudwara was left. Seventy two-year old Mukhtiar Singh, who was a witness to that war, said, “We had to leave our village and returned home only after one-and-a-half years. Even during the Kargil war in 1999, we were pushed to the edge. Nobody wants to live here,” he added.

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Today those memories are being revived because of the order to evacuate border villages. Bags are getting packed, many villagers are leaving to take refuge with relatives elsewhere, others are gathering on the streets sharing memories of the 1971 war. Most of the women and children have already left. The villagers are worried, about their cattle, their crops, their lives, their future. Agriculture is the main livelihood, but there is nothing to do as troops have stopped villagers from tilling their land.

Gathering her belongings in her house which is right on the fence, a villager, Veero, said, “We have gone through hell in the 1971 war. Today the population is just 250, it was much more then. It is very easy for the Government to say that evacuate villages. But where do we go? Has any arrangement made for us today or for the future? Till now no government official has turned up,” she added.

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As BSF troops move through the streets of this small village, residents are unhappy that even though there is no war right now, they are being displaced.

Village Sarpanch Nirmal Singh said, “Ever since evacuation orders have come, people have started to recall the 71 war. They are afraid. There is no point moving back after every few years.”

Even in “normal times” this border village lives in fear. There is regular movement of BSF troops and the sound of gunshots (mostly to counter smugglers) resound ever so often.

The village is so close to the fence that it has no school (the closest is seven km away), dispensary or hospital. There is no transport either. Mullakot’s dangerous location is its destiny.