Border Blues

Rajan Gandhi
Providing security to every citizen is the duty of any nation but the border areas of J&K have been in the news due to the ceasefire violations on daily basis .Though our state is located both on the Indo-Chinese as well as Indo-Pakistan border, it is the Indo-Pakistan border that has large number of inhabited people. As per the ministry of Home Affairs 3,323 kilometres land border that India shares with Pakistan, one-third (that is 1,225 kilometres) runs through J&K only. Out of this 210 kilometres is International Border (IB), around 150 kilometres is Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) at Siachen  and the rest (about 788 kilometres) is the Line of Control (LoC). With wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1999 and army deployment in 2001, its havoc in the border areas for ever and such is the situation that even during peacetime there is no relief to the border residents. Guns actually have never fallen silent.
With the onset of militancy, the border became more active. The infiltration bids by the armed militants have been accompanied by the firing and shelling adversely affecting the normal conditions of life. In 2003, a formal ceasefire was declared and the border people felt some relief. But this ceasefire has often been violated and the uncertainty of the borders have not ended. Moreover an overwhelming presence of security forces in many towns in the border areas like Akhnoor, Sunderbani, Nowshera, Rajouri and Poonch ,Samba,Kathua have turned  these towns more like cantonment areas. Thus huge land area under the control of the army is generally out of bounds for the local residents. Life in border areas is not easy. The people in the border areas are generally involved in agriculture and related activities like cattle farming, poultry business which are time and again disturbed by cross border firing and shelling resulting in total insecurity. This war-like situation leads to the mining of large areas which means loss of control over the cultivable land for a large number of people. Further, it is the fencing which has also kept a large portion of the cultivable land out of bounds for the border residents. Due to the resistance from across the border to the process of fencing, the fence at many places has been constructed much inside the zero line, bringing the cultivable land of many people inside the fence. This land is not only fenced but gated also meaning people have to access their land through the gates that are opened for a restricted period during the day time.
Fact is that in these border areas guns and shells are blazing even after 70 years of independence with no end in sight as the hostility between two nations goes on and on. For these people normal life means children attending school, the farmers cultivating the land, even living in their own homes is like a dream which can be disrupted at any moment. Disrupted education, leaving agricultural fields for being mined or coming under fencing or to leave the village and live in one or other relief camp has become routine. The end result is that people are agitated and angry as they are facing problems due to intermittent mortal shelling, education of their children is getting ruined and at some places they are even not able to celebrate Diwali or Eid at their homes.
They have to leave their cattle at homes and obviously these cattle perish due to shelling or starvation. The Pakistani Army has resorted to indiscriminate firing of small arms and 82 mm and 120 mm mortars. Some 4,600 students have been recently affected by the cross-border firing as more than 100 schools have been shut down indefinitely. This dislocation and displacement not only has a physical impact on people but also psychological. Being forced to leave your home, being deprived of land, and being denied education and healthcare can have an adverse effect on communities.
With such a complicated life continuously going on for the last  70 years it’s high time that both central and state governments start thinking of a permanent solution for people of our forward villages. If a tiny nation like Israel can build colonies in the disputed territories, India as a robust nation can afford permanent settlement of people from these villages at a suitable location with adequate compensation.
If Government can work for rehabilitation of surrendered militants who is stopping Government to go in for special recruitment drive for youth of these border areas. Central government can raise special battalions of both paramilitary forces and army for these deserving people and use their nationalism to counter subversive activities of anti national elements. Government shall provide special schooling on the pattern of Sainik Schools or Jawahar Navodalaya for children to complete their studies without any break or distraction. In fact even teachers can be recruited from among these people and after imparting them special training for these schools Government can achieve twin purpose of rehabilitation and permanent solution to repeated migration to relief camps.
These nationalist citizens are not asking for sky from their Government but their right to live peacefully as every other Indian citizen has got after independence from 1947 onwards. For whole India partition is history but for our border resident’s ordeal goes on and on. As a nation if we cannot take care of 2-3 lakh people then our statement of arrival of India on world stage is meaningless. The centre has to act fast to mitigate the sufferings of our citizens who are caught in never ending web of hostilities between the two countries. Patriotism cannot be at the cost of basic rights of our own people, let the whole nation stand by our fellow Indians to help them out in every possible way. Patriotism is the admission that people who share a land, a place, and a history have a special obligation to that place and to each other.
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