July 2000 News

Enemy here, enemy there - border migrants finally lose cool

10 July 2000
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Life for the border villagers of RS Pura on the International Border (IB) here has never been so miserable as it is this time. For the past 15 days, the farmers cannot move out to their fields, what with Pakistani guns booming. With electric lines totally cut off and no water supply, the villagers are even finding it difficult to stay inside the four walls, with the temperature outside ever soaring. ''For several hours our children keep crying for water. And we mothers just look helplessly towards them. Fetching water from a nearby can can turn suicidal. No one knows when a stray bullet can hit one,'' said an agitated Shanti of village R S Pura, who is among hundreds of villagers to have migrated from R S Pura. What made these border villagers, who for the past 50 years have been braving enemy bullets, to lose their cool? For years they have been bruised by enemy bullets, but the salt this time has been sprinkled by the ''false'' assurances of rehabilitation made to them by the Government. Fed up with these promises, today morning the border villagers lodged a protest against the authorities by migrating from their native places and forcibly acquiring several hundred acres of agricultural land meant for research at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Agriculture Sciences and Technology. ''How long we will see our children dying or getting maimed in front of us. After all we too have right to live in peace and this is all what we have been demanding from the Government,'' said another agitated villager, putting up in open SKUAST land. For these border villagers, the line of demarcation, which is invisible, the only proof of their existence is through their (villager''s) sufferings. ''Most of us are farmers and depend on a piece of land. When due to continuous firing we cannot cultivate it, how can we survive,'' asks Ram Singh, another border villager. He said after seeing the treatment meted out to them, both India and Pakistan were enemies for him. ''The only difference is that they (Indians) are ''visible'' enemies and they (Pakistanis) are ''invisible'','' he added. The village women, justifying their grabbing of the agriculture land belonging to SKUAST, said how long they will risk their lives for every pitcher of water they have to get from the nearby canal or well. ''After all we have to think of our children. We as a parents have some responsibility and we are fulfilling it by taking this step,'' said Shanti of village Kandian in R S Pura. Leaving behind their home and hearth, the border migrants are putting up in open in vast agricultural land of SKUAST. With no shelter around, they seem happy that at least they have managed to get a piece of land that they have been striving for so long. ''We will not vacate from here unless Government provides us land somewhere else. No doubt we will have to once again start afresh. But it will free us from all these death we die every day,'' said another villager.


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