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We need land, not bomb shelters: Jammu villagers live on edge amid Pakistan firing

12 people were killed in a week since Pakistani troops resorted to heavy shelling along the IB and the LoC.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2018 07:24 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Pindi Charakan/Sai Khurd
Border villages,Jammu and Kashmir,Pakistan
A woman shows the damage at her house after heavy shelling from the Pakistani side of the border, at Kanachak village, about 35 km from Jammu.(PTI Photo)

Political leaders promise bomb shelters and bunkers to border villagers in Jammu and Kashmir every time Pakistan breaks a fragile ceasefire and fires mortar shells and machine guns in a proxy war that kills civilians and destroys homes.

The promised bunkers were discussed a great deal by the villagers facing the latest round of Pakistani shelling, which has killed 12 people since Wednesday and sent about 60,000 to relief shelters away from the direct line of fire.

The displaced villagers said the bunkers are not going to make a big difference to their lives.

“I fail to understand how the government is going to build individual bunkers in our tiny houses. There are countless families living in one- and two-room houses with no space for anything else,” said Vikram Kumar, a 32-year-old photographer.

Kumar said the solution will be to give land around 5km to 10km away from the border to the affected villagers and let them shift to these safe zones in times of hostilities.

“The government is talking about bunkers. They are ready to spend crores of rupees for it but that won’t be a lasting solution. It would be better if the Centre agrees to our demand for five marla plots in safer zones,” Kumar said.

Raj Kumar, a 60-year-old farmer, and retired solder Ashok Kumar, 52, of Sai Khurd echoed similar views. “You cannot remain huddled in a bunker for an entire day or a night. The government should think of plots for us in safer zones, away from the firing range of Pakistan, where we can move during hostilities with our families and cattle,” Raj Kumar said.

The BJP had promised five marlas or 1,361.25 square feet of land for border villagers during the campaign for the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections in 2014.

The party now rules the state in alliance with the People’s Democratic Party. Last year, the government said it has decided to build bunkers instead of allotting land.

‘Refugees again’

“We were refugees when uprooted from Bhimber in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 1947. We settled in Abdal village in RS Pura. We are refugees again. This is our fate,” said 70-year-old Jai Singh. He is among those evacuated from villages hit by Pakistani shells. Like him, 60-year-old Mohan Lal of Adbal is tired of the repeated Pakistani assaults.

“They cause damage to our crops, cattle, houses. Children’s classes are hampered. This has become a routine since 2015. This time Pakistan heavily pounded our villages, something I never witnessed in my life, except in 1965 and 1971 when full-scale wars broke out,” he said. In Arnia, shopkeeper Kamal Kishore lashed out at politicians. “They visit relief camps away from the enemy’s range. They talk about retaliation. Come spend a night with us,” he said.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 07:07 IST