Ever since Pakistan started firing along the International Border (IB), several villagers have become refugees in their own land. More than 10,000 villagers have taken refuge in 35 camps established by the government.
There are around 5,000 migrants in 12 camps in Jammu district, 3200 in seven camps in Samba and 2,100 in 16 camps in Kathua district.
In one such camp at the Government Higher School RS Pura, around 40 km from Jammu, migrants who have left everything behind, including livestock and homes, are finding it hard to come to terms with the reality.
In the camp of around 1,000 people, at 11 pm on Thursday, no one was sleeping. Women, men and children huddled in various corners were found consoling each another. Earlier, men had returned to their homes to check belongings and give fodder to cattle.
"I am 75-year-old, it has been happening with us time and again. I have seen the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and many such border tensions throughout my life. Now, we will have to rebuild our house again, as it was hit by shells. This is the fifth time, I will be starting from scratch. We have left everything behind, including house and livestock on God's mercy," said Satya Devi, who along with five other family members, has taken refuge in the camp.
"I hardly sleep, since I came here three days ago. Our present plight and uncertain future are haunting me," she said.
Slamming politicians for not fulfilling their promise of providing five marla of land for border migrants, she said, "In 1996, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad assured us of five marla of land at safer zone. But even after 20 years, nothing has happened."
"Even if government cannot provide us land, it must at least build permanent structures, so that when the situation escalates on the border, we can shift there," she demanded.
Rita Devi, a domestic help, is very much distressed. "Last time during similar cross border shelling in August, my employer deducted 15 days' salary. This time too, same thing will happen. Moreover, during the firing in August, my brother-in-law was seriously injured.
The government only provided Rs 5,000 as compensation. We had to rush him to Amritsar for advanced treatment, where over Rs 2 lakh was incurred on his treatment. We now owe a huge debt," she said.
It was the demand of all the migrants in the camp that either the government should provide land to them or build permanent structures in safer zones.
Jaswant Singh, sarpanch from Phalora, supported the demand on providing 5 marla land to people living in the border areas.
Eight civilians were killed and 80 others injured in the cross-border firing by Pakistan since October 1.