July 2004 News

Border villages caught between two fences

28 July 2004
The Hindu
Luv Puri

Shahpur (Poonch): Villagers in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir are facing a peculiar situation as they would be caught between two tiers of fencing being erected to plug infiltration. Fencing along the Line of Control started a year ago and is almost complete in this belt. This summer, it has been seen that even though fences have been erected, the infiltration has continued unabated. At some places, fences have come up at a distance of one to three km inside the Line of Control. For instance, Sekhlu area of Poonch district, 4 km from the Line of Control, has been bifurcated with the coming of fencing operations. The fence posed an obstacle for the villagers in the area for carrying on with their day-to-day activities even several kilometres inside the Line of Control. Army authorities maintain that it has erected gates along the fencing which can be opened so that the villagers on the other side of fencing could easily enter this side. 'We have taken all steps so that villagers on the other side of the border do not face any problem. We have directed the farmers to cut the maize crops all along the Line of Control - 40 meters from both sides of the fencing and due compensation would be given to the farmers', said a senior army officer of Poonch brigade. But for all practical purpose, the fence has separated them from the neighbouring areas. To gain entry into the interior areas where civilian hospitals and schools are located, the villagers have to show their identity cards given by the J&K Government and then only the gates would be opened. But this mechanism is easier said than done particularly during the night- time as admitted by the authorities. Troops busy in counter militancy operations during the night would have little time for opening gates for the civilians and attending to the contingencies, said Mohammad Bashir. Fencing operations in this sector started before November 26 ceasefire, and the Jawans deployed for the work were the direct target of Pakistan firing from across the Line of Control. At some places here, Pakistan forces enjoy a strategic advantage as they occupy the famous Haji Pir mountain range now in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which was won by the Indian army in the 1965 war. The range was returned to Pakistan after the war on the basis of Tashkent agreement signed between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistan President Ayub Khan. Haji Pir mountain range gives the Pakistan forces ability to over see the entire Poonch town and the surrounding areas. Based on this fact, in a tactical decision taken by the army, the fencing operations were started several kilometres inside the Indian territory to ward off any causalities to the Jawans carrying on with fence work.


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