Our soldiers certainly are the people who are guarding our borders and allowing us to enjoy peaceful life and festivity. Villagers in border areas of J & K are another set of people who are determined to stay there despite decades of neglect and despair
Deeapak Zazia from Chapriayal (LOC) J&K
Displacement is routine affair for the inhabitants of the border areas of Jammu region because whenever there is tension of the International Border (IB) or on the Line of Control (LoC), it is the border dwellers that have to face the brunt. Whenever there is firing, they have to leave their homes and hearths to take shelters at safer places. For the helpless border residents settled life is still a distant dream. Although first massive displacement was started in the year 1947 after partition holocaust in which thousands and thousands of people were killed or displaced from their native places, internal displacement going unabated in the border areas of Jammu region.
|The Jammu region alone, at present, is having seven types of helpless dislocated people. The displacement is not only the result of misdemeanors of Pakistan but successive governments-both at the State and Centre had ignored plights of the border inhabitants.
The nature of displacement from border may be classified as temporary, semi-permanent and permanent. The Chhamb-displaced, for instance, have permanently moved out of their native place since 1971. Temporary displacement takes place whenever there is disturbance on the border. Such temporary displacement is a recurring phenomenon in the state and people living on the border undergo dislocation so many times, sometimes for few days and sometimes for months. Displacement, thus, becomes a part of their life wherein they keep shuttling between their native places and the camps frequently. Many of the border people have decamped nearly six times since independence i.e. in 1947, 65, 71, 87, 99, 2001, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Displacement becomes semi-permanent when those who leave their native places in the wake of disturbed condition, are not able to return even after years.
Octogenarian, Bua Ditta border village Bobiya of Kathua, informed us that displacement is part of their life because since 1965 it has been a routine affair. “We are habitual of leaving homes and living in camps”, he said while recounting how they were first time dislocated in 1947 when their village was attacked by some miscreants who came from across the border. Decades of hostility between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has left people vulnerable in border villages, Akhnoor, Pargwal, R S Pura, Samba, Kathua, Pallanwalla, Rajouri and Poonch sectors. People find themselves in the line of fire during wars, minor skirmishes and anti-infiltration operations.
The wrinkled Bua Ditta said that displacement was nothing new to him. By now, he has lost count of the number of times he and his family had to shift to camps due to hostilities on the borders. Having lived through times when there was no border between the two sides, he recalled and said that since the day Pakistan was created, problems had cropped up for the border residents.
Post-1947, in one night, residents of these areas became border residents and victims to the hostilities from across the border. Agony of the border residents can be gauged from the fact that in 1965, Bua Ditta had migrated with children but on October 2, this year he left his home with his great grandchildren. Border residents are unanimous that they are facing hardship due to a disease called Pakistan and there is need to treat this disease once for all.
Over 3 lakh population has been affected in Jammu province due to ongoing skirmishes on the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC). The worst affected is entire Poonch district and Khour sub-division of Jammu. Administration too is concerned about possible logistic issues in case of eruption of hostilities. With thousands being evacuated from the border areas in Jammu, it is the largest shifting of people since 2001 Parliament attacks. Temporary camps established by government in Government schools provide shelter and food.
Truce Violation Continues
The November 2003 ceasefire agreement was a landmark in the strained bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. It came after a long cycle of violence along the 725-kilometre-long Line of Control (LoC) which divides Jand K into two parts. It followed a framework of military confidence-building measures (CBMs) that kept the artillery pieces at least 20 km away from the LoC, thus promising a sustained halt to heavy firing. It also came as a huge relief to tens of thousands of people living along the LoC.
Border residents heaved a sigh of relief” after cease fire was announced by both the governments but after some unfortuanately due to misdeeds of Pakistan calm has been shattered. “The ceasefire in 2003 was a God-given gift for the hapless population that has been a victim of the wars between India and Pakistan since 1947,” observed Ravi Singh of village Suchetgarh of Jammu.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had herself declared on the floor of the J&K Assembly on June 29 this year about the thousands of violations from Pakistan. “There have been 11,270 ceasefire violations and border firing incidents by Pakistan in Jand K since 2002, which have resulted in the killing of 313 people, including 144 security forces personnel”, Chief Minister added. She said that these violations and incidents had taken place between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2015. “In the year 2016, 267 incidents of ceasefire violations were recorded along the International Border (IB), 172 incidents were reported along the LoC according to official sources”.
“The highest number of such violations took place in 2002 when 8376 incidents were reported”, she said in written reply to a question. The ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control and international border in J & K came into force in November 2003.
169 civilians and 144 security men were killed in the shelling from across the border in J&K since 2002 but this number increased due to death of civilians in the year 2016. In 2014 and 2015, 14 and 16 civilians were killed respectively in ceasefire violations from across the border, A total of 735 civilians and 311 security forces personnel were injured in these violations in these years.
Chinese flags in Kashmir raise many eye-brows
Recovery of Chinese flags from the hideout of terrorists in North Kashmir has raised many eyes brows but it is a new deceitful tactics of terror groups to hoodwink the innocent Kashmiri youth. Terror groups realised that Pakistan has been isolated at international level. So, such groups have started exploiting youth in the name of China to spread a message that China is with them in their
Impact of displacement
The socio-cultural life of the displaced has also been affected adversely after displacement. The community life in form of celebration of festivals and other social functions have been severely affected due to economic constraints and psychological trauma. The celebrations have become only formality wherein many rituals and ceremonies are skipped. Displacement has also brought change in the marriage patterns. Where as marriages usually took a week with many rituals in villages, following displacement, the same have become one-day affair. The intra-family relations have also been severely affected due to breaking of the patrilineal joint family system that was common. Following displacement, the role of the family patriarch has changed as also the division of labour. There is also upsurge in early marriage of girls due to prevailing uncertainty and insecurity in the camps. Displacement has made the people more fatalistic and their faith in the destiny has increased manifold. After displacement, the participation in community activities has decreased.
Forced migration of the people has bulldozed the walls of caste, creed and colour as migrants are jointly preparing community kitchens to feed themselves.
“It is like ‘blessing in disguise’ because displacement has bulldozed the walls of castes and creeds. All the people, irrespective of caste, creed or colour have been involved in preparing community kitchen in the camp”, Rajinder Singh, a resident of border area of Akhnoor, who has taken shelter in Government Higher Secondary School, Muthi said.
Education, the first casualty
When tension flared up on the international border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) following the surgical strike by the Army, authorities were forced to close schools situated within the radius of 10 km of the borders. Both government and private schools were closed in the border areas of Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts. According to a rough estimate, over 1,500 schools were closed. The closing of schools, at this time, when half-yearly examinations were going on, had affected studies of students of the border areas.
The functioning of other educational institutions located in the “safer” zones was also affected because premises of such schools would be utilised to house people in case of any migration.
First Helping Hand
For the first time since 1947 that the Government at the Centre headed by Narendra Modi has taken some concrete steps to at least minimise miseries of border residents. The Government has announced adequate compensation for kins of cross border firing victims. The Union Cabinet, in its meeting on August 24 had cleared a proposal for providing compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kins of those who were killed in cross-border firing along the IB in J & K.
Minister of State (PMO) Jitendra Singh had announced that the compensation would also be available for people living in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). “They are also part of India. This compensation cannot be given to them unless they are out of the illegal occupation of Pakistan” was Dr Singh’s announcement. The compensation amount will also be given to those who sustain 50 per cent or more disability or incapacitation due to the same reasons, announced Dr Singh. This decision has provided a big relief to the people as there was no such schemer earlier.
During the Prime Minister’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir on October 23, 2014, the issue of financial assistance to the people killed in cross-border firing was raised and the Central government considered this demand sympathetically. It is an historic decision as more than 50 civilians die every year in J&K. In Jammu, 192 kms of border, which is referred to as working boundary by Pakistan is manned by the BSF, while the remaining 8 kms are secured by the Indian Army. Beyond these 8 kms, lies 740 kms LoC in the Kashmir Valley and is secured by the Indian Army. Furthermore the government has also decided to build over 20,000 bunkers for border tesidents in J & K. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 3 crore for the construction of bunkers in Jammu on a pilot basis. State Government had submitted this proposal to the Union Home Ministry for construction of 20,125 community-type bunkers at various places along the borders in the Jammu division. Out of Rs.1,000 crore estimated cost of this project, the Centre has alradcy sanctioned Rs.three crore for the pilot project. Civilian bunkers will be crucial for safety of these broder residents who are reluctant to shift.
In December last year, the Centre had decided to construct community bunkers along International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) for being used during shelling and firing by Pak. “When there was firing and shelling and we were forced to flee, government had promised to build community bunkers in our hamlets and give us plots of land in safer places. But when will we see them?” asked Puran Chand, Sarpanch of Londi Panchayat of Kathua.
“We have not seen those bunkers. Government should have fast-tracked the process to build the bunkers”, he said, while noting that fear psychosis is prevailing along the border hamlets.
For people living along the LoC and the IB, the migration to government-run community centres at safer places has been an annual feature because of heavy Pakistani shelling and firing.
In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 border dwellers fled to safer areas to escape heavy shelling along IB and LoC in which several people died and scores of people were injured besides casualties suffered by the cattle. “If the Government should had constucted community bunkers on war-footing close to our homes in the village, we would not have been forced to leave our homes”, Puranchand reminded.
The determination and courage of these border residents is really commendable as they are also acting like civilian soldiers for the protection of motherland.