January 2005 News

Hoisting the flag after a decade

30 January 2005
The Hindu
Luv Puri

Surankote: Braving chilly winds and militancy, people in remote hamlets here hoisted the Tricolour on Republic Day after almost a decade. The national flag was hoisted atop the highest hillock so that it could be seen from the surroundings. This is in sharp contrast to the days when militants unfurled black flags on the occasion. Aslam Mohammad, who coordinated the Republic Day celebrations says: 'Militants used to give us dictates and practically they were our masters and we were reduced to the status of modern day slaves. Now it seems the dark ages are over.' Despite the snowfall in the Pir Panjal range being the heaviest in the last 15 years it had not deterred the locals from daily patrolling and defence operations to wipe out militancy in the area. No more do militants have a free run here. Over 4,200 ft above the sea level, the villagers celebrated the occasion without fear. Two hundred members of Village Defence Committees, including women, of Surankote villages mostly Muslim youths have emerged as a strong wall for defence against militancy, this winter. Harsh winter The winter has been a harsh one for them. But it was also time to take advantage, as militants had to move to lower altitudes, vacating the higher reaches. Mohammad Qasim, a local VDC member, says: 'We realised that militants would come down because of cold weather and try to take refuge in civilian areas. It is time to hit back.' Though the footgear to carry counter-militancy operations in the snow is lacking, the main weapon in the villager's arsenal appears to be sheer determination and courage. 'We cannot rest. By only ending the menace of militants we can give a bright future to our children,' said Mohammad Bashir. Women too have been trained in the use of weapons to defend themselves against the militants,' says Tahira Begum, a VDC member, who has taken part in many an encounter.


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