Border Residents Bearing the brunt

Jammu: Villagers showing mortar shells fired from across the border by Pakistan in a village of Sadoh, Samba district, on Sunday. PTI Photo (PTI10_25_2015_000167B)

Rajan Gandhi
Our state shares border with both China and Pakistan but it is the Indo-Pakistan  border that has largest number of               inhabited people.
As per the ministry of Home Affairs 3,323 km land border that India shares with Pakistan, one-third i.e. 1,225 km runs through J and K only. Out of this 210 km is International Border (IB), around 150 km is Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) at Siachen and the rest (about 788 km) is the Line of Control (LoC). Of the 22 total districts of J&K, border runs through 10 districts and five districts fall in Jammu region – namely, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch with the border running through the tehsils of Samba, Vijaypur, Bishnah, RS Pura, Satwari, Marh, Akhnoor, Khour, Ghagwal, Hiranagar, Barnoti, Kathua, Sundarbani, Nowshera, Rajouri, Manjakote, Balakote, Mendhar, Poonch and Mandi. With wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1999 and army deployment in 2001, its havoc in these 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.
Before partition for many of these border villages like Arnia belt, the nearest town was Sialkot in West Punjab, now in Pakistan. While Jammu was at a distance of 28 kms, Sialkot was only at a distance of 14 kilometers and same is story of RS Pura and other border villages and life was comfortable without much hassles. Due to partition hell broke loose with many left for Pakistan and their properties were made evacuees state properties and similarly thousands came to India from West Pakistan of Mirpur, Bhimber, Muzzafrabad, Bagh, Rawlakot, Kotli etc to settled in India along with people from Chamb to be settled in villages like Allah , Devigarh and many other villages where parts of  land were abandoned after partition and came under the custody of the state.  They were given land but not ‘malikana’ rights .The ownership rights and the land till date belongs to the state and these people are called allottees without the malikana (ownership) rights. During the Chief Ministership of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982, the state Assembly passed the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Resettlement Act’ and as per this Act, residents of J and K who had migrated to POK as well as their descendants were permitted to  settle down in J&K and claim the property which they owned before their migration. However the Act could not be implemented since it was sent to the President of India who referred it to the Supreme Court for seeking its validity and a stay was ordered on it. This political act of NC  created lot of apprehensions in the mind of those people who are holding evacuee property and the fact is that even after 70 years of independence the ‘Malikana rights’ have not been given with the result these people do not get any compensation during fencing of border and further dislocation .
With the fencing of border started in the year 2000, around 400 meters to one and half km inside the Indian territory, a substantial part of the agricultural land came under fencing. Most of this land is very fertile cultivated by the villagers but restricted due to the fence though there are gates built along the fence to allow the people to have access to their land, yet it constrains their agricultural activities as  opening of gates is as per the scheduled timing and it is only during this timing that farmers are allowed to access their land and indulge in agrarian activities but this time is not sufficient which impact overall level of productivity .Land compensation is still pending even after around two decades since the  land was acquired by BSF. The issue has often been raised in the meetings of the District Development Boards and even the Legislative Assembly of the State but till date it is pending despite the fact that the BSF widened the border fence from 60 feet to 135 feet and most of the land under fencing is the state land where people do not have the land right and the land is just allotted and as such no compensation. It seems state itself is acting like oppressor for these border residents denying their dues without any valid reason.
A special programme was initiated in 1986 known as Border Area Development Programme (BADP) which catered to the border people of J&K, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan with the objective of ensuring balanced development of border areas through ‘adequate provisions of infrastructural facilities’ and ‘promotion of a sense of security amongst the local population’ but as usual this scheme failed to get the desired results in J and K causing deep resentment among border residents from time to time. The sense of neglect is so deep-rooted in the villages around the border due to the lack of attention of the government officials or even the politicians that the people of Jabbowal once organized a unique kind of protest that caught the media and governmental attention. To make a point that they are not being looked after in their own country and are not able to enjoy their basic rights as citizens, they made an attempt to cross the border on July 21, 2011. This was a symbolic protest and was foiled by the BSF. Both central and state governments must understand that these border residents are first line of defense, safeguarding the country against any infiltration and any further migration will result in compromise with national security. Main stay of the border population is agricultural ,cattle farming, poultry business and despite 70 years of independence no bunker protection for public and cattle have been provided till date despite announcements from government from time to time. With real-life danger looming large, their priorities are linked with the basic instinct of survival with added compulsions to evacuate frequently and shift to safer places. Living under the conditions of continued border hostilities, fear of life, multiple evacuations, the border residents are not able to enjoy the settled life.
With around 300 hundred schools are closed and more than fifty thousand migrating right now due to continuous shelling one fails to understand the intent of central and state governments . Being forced to leave your home, being deprived of land and being denied education and healthcare can have an adverse effect on communities.  With no specialized trauma centre in any of this war like zone area people are left to manage on their own. 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 government can work for rehabilitation of surrendered militants and Rohingyas 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 Pakistan. Government shall immediately provide special schooling on the pattern of Sainik Schools or Jawahar Navodalaya for these children to complete their studies without any break or distraction. In fact even teachers can be recruited from among these people after imparting them special training. With these schools government can achieve twin purpose of rehabilitation and permanent solution to repeated migration to relief camps. Government should immediately start construction of bunkers along with establishment of AIIMS like multiple specialized trauma centres and settle the issue of state land allottees once for all. GoI can immediately insure crop and all the cattle of border areas on the pattern of National Crop insurance. Immediate compensation should be provided to the affected people with provision for alternative land to live peacefully.
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 our 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. Mere lip services are not going to mitigate the sufferings of these people. Both the Jammu MP’s from the affected area and 25 local BJP MLAs cannot disown their responsibilities as 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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