Srinagar: Uprooted from their homes after firing by Pakistan Army, people from border areas living in schools-turned-camps have demanded individual bunkers at their residences.
Over 5,000 people living in 23 hamlets along the Line of Control were forced to leave their houses in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district following heavy firing and shelling four months ago.
Four civilians were killed and five others were injured in firing and shelling by Pakistani troops in different sectors of Rajouri in the recent past.
The residents made the demand for individual bunkers to Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday during his visit to one of the six camps set up in Nowshera by the government. “Our first and foremost demand is that government should set up individual bunkers in each of the border house, if we have to live again along the LoC. This is most and first demand of the LoC people,” Jangarh resident Prashtom Kumar said.
Kumar, who is the president of Border Migrants Coordination Committee, conveyed the demand to Singh and said, “We need bunkers more than food. It serves as a bullet-proof jacket for us and our families.”
Sarpanch of Kalsian border hamlet Bahadur Choudhary said, “If all the residents get individual bunkers at their homes, no one will leave the LoC hamlets no matter how bad Pakistan may shell us.”
Nowshera MLA Ravinder Raina also supported their demand and said a chunk of land should be provided to the LoC dwellers to build safe places. “I appreciate the Union home minister reaching out to the LoC migrants in Nowshera sector of Rajouri…The visit will on one hand boost the morale of security forces while the people living along the LoC will feel they have full-backing from the state and the central governments,” Raina said.
Forced to take shelter in camps in five schools in Nowshera sector, border dwellers are reluctant to go back to their homes even after four months due to repeated shelling and firing.
The affected villagers rue lack of proper medical facilities and other amenities at the camps which have become their “second home”. “How can we go back when Pakistan army is firing and shelling our homes? We have been facing Pakistani aggression for decades…We prefer to stay away from our homes rather than become sitting ducks for unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops from across the border,” said Sarveshwari Devi, a resident of Sair Makri village along the zero line in Nowshera sector.
The Union home minister, along with Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, yesterday interacted with men, woman and children at the camp. “Just wait for some more time, Pakistan will be forced to stop firing. Whether they stop firing today or tomorrow, they will have to stop firing and ceasefire violation,” Singh told the border dwellers.
“Whatever is possible, I will do it (to resolve problems of the border dwellers). You are facing unnecessary problems,” Singh said.
“I know that whether it is Indo-Pak border or any other border in the world, if locals are not be living there, and if border belts become vacant, without habitation, you never know which foreigners come and start their activities and encroachment of the borderlands. Nothing can be said with confidence about it,” he said.
He said the biggest strategic asset of India was the India citizens living on the borders of the country.
Singh told the border dwellers that he could not visit them earlier due to bad weather conditions and said he has been briefed about their demands and he would do whatever is possible. “If need be to talk to the prime minister, I will talk to him too,” he said.
He also assured the locals that recruitments in para military forces will be undertaken in border belts too. District Development Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said the government was planning to construct nearly 7,000 underground “individual and community” bunkers along the LoC for the safety of civilians.
The project report has already been submitted to the Centre for its approval and funds. The government has started construction of 100 bunkers in the worst-hit Nowshera district under the local area development fund and the work is in progress, he added.