August 2003 News

Silently they flee their homes

9 August 2003
The Hindu
Luv Puri

Gool (Udhampur): A silent migration is on at Gool, a strategic point on the route of militants heading for the neighbouring Anantnag district of Kashmir. During the past three weeks, on an average, 10 families from Uarnal, Sarbangi, Sumber Upper, Sumber Lower, Jwari, Chachwa and Thatraka, the militant-ridden heights of the mountainous region, have fled daily, and there is no protest or sympathy from any quarter. Posters had sprung up overnight in the name of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (Chenab division) asking the villagers to migrate and abandon their homes. And the houses of those who ignored the diktat, have been torched. The populace, mostly below the poverty line, have had little choice. Those who braved the threats play 'hide and seek' with the militants during night. 'We are scared for our lives, but there is no option except to stay as nobody would come to our rescue. I do not want to become a beggar,' Sabak Ram, a resident of the Sumber village says. However, most of the people there are now starving. Sources said that for well over a decade, militants came to their houses and sought shelter. The area was marked a 'peace zone' by the militants, who struck the locality only when 'most needed'. The main reason was that the militants wanted to keep their route to the Valley free of obstacles. The 172 Battalion of the Border Security Force is deployed in the areas around Gool and contingents of the Indian Reserve Police protect the heights beyond the Valley. But it seems insufficient on the ground, according to the locals. ' Let the forces protect themselves and then think of coming to our rescue,' is a common rebuke. Sources say the police launched a drive in February to trace militant hideouts and flush them out with the cooperation of the local population. A local commander of the Hizbul, Amanullah Peer, who had been active in the area for over a decade, was killed. The police termed the killing as a major success, but counter-attacks soon followed. The attack on a police-post in March 15, in which 11 policemen were killed, was a clear message to the police. Militants in large numbers attacked the post, as all outfits had ganged up for the purpose.


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