Ignored by govt, villagers along Line of Control make their own bunkers

The cross-border shelling, which spiked after August 5 when the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, has been giving sleepless nights to over 4,800 families in 40 villages along the Line of Control (LOC) in Uri tehsil.

The cross-border shelling, which spiked after August 5 when the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, has been giving sleepless nights to over 4,800 families in 40 villages along the Line of Control (LOC) in Uri tehsil. In absence of any help from the government, the families, who haven been living in a constant fear, have started building their own bunkers.

“The shelling begins at any time of the day, injuring our family, damaging our houses and killing our cattle. We have been demanding bunkers from the government but to no avail,” said Naksha Begum of Mothal village.

The sarpanch of Charunda village, Lal Din Khatana, said the cross-border shelling has claimed lives of over 17 people and left 22 injured since 1990.

“We have been demanding for an underground dugouts for safety. We had approached sub-divisional magistrate as well as deputy commissioner but there was no help from them,” he said.

Uri sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM) Reyaz Ahmad Malik said the authorities have sent a proposal to the government last month in this regard. “We are expecting an approval anytime in the coming days,” he said.

In September, three mortars were dropped, of which two blasted on the premise of a primary school in Fatawali of Nambla village.

A similar case was witnessed in October at a primary School Kareri Thapla in Balkote village. There are 14 schools near the Line of Control.

In June, a protest was organised by local leader Sajad Shafi Uri in the area, in which thousands of villagers from across 40 villages participated. A memorandum in this regard was also submitted to then governor Satya Pal Malik.

“The administration had promised to provide us with bunkers within a month. We are still awaiting,” said Uri.

Ishrat Begum, 22, of Danna Balkote village said it has become more difficult to raise the issue in the absence of an elected representatives in the wake of abrogation of Article 370.

“Whom shall we demand from?” she said.

There are days when the cross-border firing goes on for hours with bullets whizzing over our heads several times, told 55-year-old Saaja Begum of the same village who has made a bunker for her family.

“The cost of making a bunker goes in lakhs which is unaffordable by a poor family like ours. We have made a makeshift bunker with wood which protects us from light shelling, but it will also be damaged during heavy shelling,” she said.

The average cost of a bunker construction ranges from one lakh for a wooden bunker to three lakhs for the iron and concrete bunkers. “We are daily wagers, we spend whatever we earn in a day. For making these bunkers, I sold my cattle and invested all the money I got from the walnut trade,” said 39-year-old Nasir Ahmed Mir of Tilawari village.

Saaja Begum says there are times when the firing goes on for hours.

“On October 13, there was a constant barraging on both sides of the border. After 1998, this was the heaviest shelling we faced. We thought the war has begun between India and Pakistan,” she said.

“Gun fire, mortar shells as well Bofors were shot at us,” Shabbir Ahmad Awan, 36, of Badgran village said.

Post August 5, as many as 22 ceasefire violations have been observed in three sectors of Uri.

“Our tin roof is entirely penetrated by shells. How will we manage in snow and rain? Our walnut trees are mostly damaged and our cattle are either dead or injured,” said Awan.

Manzoor Ahmed Bhatt, 36, of Mothal village said, “I have a family of 12 people. The administration is asking us to camp in a high school. How can I relocate there with my family and cattle?”

The SDM said there are two camps in Uri and one in Boniyar area where people are people with food, shelter and medical facilities during emergencies.

“What will they do when schools will re-open?”,questioned Bhatt.

‘NO OPTION BUT TO FLEE’

His father Kadir Bhatt, 70, said, “If the firing continues like this we will have to flee. When India does not hear us we have to go to Pakistan.”

In 1998, one entire village in Uri, Samali, migrated to Pakistan when the conflict between India and Pakistan was at its peak.

Last month Latifa Begum and her 10-year-old child, Bilal Ahmed, of Mothal village were injured when a splinter piercing through the roof and fell on bed, injuring her thigh and head of her child.

“If India and Pakistan are constantly going to fight how will we live in Uri?” she said.

Source: Hindustan Times

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