Villagers feel like sitting ducks

Excelsior Correspondent

Back to normalcy after floods: Girls playing in a park at Pulwama on Thursday. — Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
Back to normalcy after floods: Girls playing in a park at Pulwama on Thursday.
— Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

JAMMU, Oct 9: Leaving behind blood-stained beds, dismantled roof-tops and windows punctured by bullets, residents of border villages say that they were like sitting ducks for target practice of Pakistan’s troops as they marched to safer places.
“We have become sitting ducks for target practice of Pakistan’s troops. Our men have been injured in the firing and shelling and two among us have been killed,” said Bagh Ali of Joura Farm in RS Pura sector.
Ali and 300 residents of Joura Farm hamlet close to International Border have fled their homes fearing more firing from Pakistan’s troops. Two women of Joura Farm were killed in Pakistan shelling in August while six civilians were injured yesterday when a number of cattle perished in the shelling from the Rangers.
Panicked villagers said they were fed up with the seemingly endless cycle of violence.
“Fear of death due to Pakistan shelling has forced us to leave our home and hearths and take shelter in relief camps in safer areas. Our houses have been dismantled by shelling,” 47-year-old Suchet Singh of Kaku-De Kothey in Arnia sector said while sitting in a relief camp at Rehal, Bishnah.
“I found a new life. I narrowly escaped each time the mortar bombs rained over our house. Our rooftop was torn down and walls were pockmarked by bullets. I thanked God for saving my life and left next morning,” Mahasha Kothe dweller Raghu recounted stories of worst spasm of terror in the tense region.
As per the district officials, border people from almost all hamlets located close to the IB in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts have migrated and taken refugee either at shelter camps or with their relatives.
Over 50 border hamlets and Arnia town along IB in Jammu district are almost completely deserted
Meanwhile, 80-year-old Parkasho Devi has witnessed every conflict between India and Pakistan along the border here but feels that latest onslaught from the neighbouring country has been unprecedented as even at the peak of hostilities civilian areas were not targeted as they were being now.
Parkasho has been a resident of Mahasha Kothe village in Arnia sector.
“In 1947, the war was fought using swords. I was very young at that time but I saw our brave men fighting the enemy at the border using swords,” Parkasho recalled.
Arnia sub-sector in RS Pura sector is one of the worst hit areas of the recent spurt in ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side. Five people lost their lives and 34 others were wounded in Arnia alone when Pakistan side resorted to unprovoked firing on Sunday night.
“Even at the peak of hostilities between the two nations when full scale wars were being fought, the civilian population was never attacked. But this time, I don’t know how they attacked innocent villagers,” Parkasho, who along with 17 family members has been staying at a Government-run relief camp in Bishnah following the recent ceasefire violation, said.
Parkasho says she feels sad for her neighbour Bamroo Devi, who lost four members of her family in the shelling.
“There had been some celebrations in their house and we had spent the evening with them. Some of her (Bamroo Devi’s) close relatives were sleeping in the yard while some on the terrace when the shelling started,” Parkasho said.
She said before they could escape a mortar shell hit their house, in which four of them died on the spot and several others were injured.
“Within few hours they (Pakistani army) converted celebration into mourning. Even if we return to our villages, life will never be the same for any of us,” she said.
People in the migrant camp said there were hundreds of people who had abandoned their houses to take shelter at relief camps at Deoli and Rehal in Bishnah and Slair in Arnia.
The villagers at the relief camps say they will rebuild their damaged houses and re-establish their lost businesses, but the scars of the recent shelling might never fade.
“Damaged houses can be rebuilt, but we will never be able to get back the people we lost. Even the scars on our bodies would heal, but the scars on our memories would remain forever,” they said.
The residents of the frontier areas said they were fed up of the frequent firing from across the border and want the State and the Central Government to take measures for their permanent rehabilitation to a safer area.

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