The ongoing tension between India and Pakistan has refreshed wounds of the families of landmine victims at Ferozepur and Fazilka.
For Rani Devi (39) of Golo Ka Maur village in Guruharsahai subdivision of Ferozepur district, landmines are not a wartime anecdote but a clear and present danger. She lost her husband, Parshotam Lal, to a landmine blast 12 years ago.
On August 13, 2004, Parshotam (30) was tilling his field unmindfully at Pakka Chisti village on the border in Fazilka when a landmine laid during Operation Parakram after the 2001 Parliament attack blew him to pieces. He was not the sole victim of mine blasts that took place even two years after Operation Parakram ended.
Data compiled by HT shows 26 people across Ferozepur (including present-day Fazilka district) lost their lives or limbs in landmine explosions. Brothers — Gurcharan Singh (14) and Ajit Singh (8) — died in an explosion in June 2003 at Ladduka village. Pakka Chisti or Ladhu Ka was among hundreds of villages along the Pakistan border in Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, where the army laid many landmines to prepare for war.
Mostly, civilians paid the price of one of the India’s biggest mine-laying operations , as 58 were killed and 310 injured between January 2002 and March 2004. “The army gave us mine clearance certificate, yet we lost our sole breadwinner,” Jagdish Thind, brother of Parshotam said. “Accidents happen despite marked minefields.” “The Centre should treat landmine blasts on a par with war incidents, and enhance compensation from Rs 2.5 lakh for loss of life and Rs 1-to-2 lakh for permanent disability,” said Rani Devi.
“Landmines are an effective obstacle against invading enemy. They cause less harm than the enemy bombs and bullets,” said an official, pleading anonymity.