Residents of Border Areas Flee ‘War-Like Situation’, Say Not Getting Any Help From Govt
Despite the growing tensions on border, the administration has not directed the locals to evacuate. However, the people are fleeing on their own.
Villagers show a damage portion in front of a house after shelling by the Pakistani Army near the LoC, n Poonch, J&K. (PTI Photo)
Mohammad Shafi Khan was returning to his home in Poonch’s Balakote on Tuesday evening when India and Pakistan started to engage in shelling. Taken by shock, he fell unconscious outside his home. His family grew anxious for his safety, but could not venture out for the next two hours owing to the intense exchange of fire.
Even when he was found by his family, he could not be taken to the hospital.
“A patch of the road connecting us to the hospital is not motorable. The alternative road is held by the defence and is inaccessible during the night hours,” said Khalil Ahmed, a local resident of Balakote. It was only on Wednesday morning that Khan was taken to district hospital from where he was referred to a Jammu hospital.
“His condition is critical. He could not get timely medical attention as the area faced shelling,” said Ahmed.
The border between India and Pakistan has been tense since the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Since then, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire at least eight times.
According to the locals living along the border, the shelling on Tuesday evening was more intense than usual. It followed the airstrikes conducted by the Indian Air Force on a Jaish-e-Mohammed base in Pakistan on Tuesday morning.
On Wednesday, Pakistan violated the Indian airspace as it sent 20 aircrafts across the Line of Control, which the government said were meant to target military installations by the Jammu and Kashmir.
While the relations between India and Pakistan remain tense, the residents living along the Line of Control have been at the receiving end.
Fear has gripped the border areas, despite these people seeing cross-border firing daily. In 2018, over 1,432 incidents of ceasefire violations took place. Over 60 people, including security personnel, were killed.
“For at least two weeks we camped in a school which is at some distance from the border. We left our homes and livestock behind,” said Nasir Khan, resident of Balakote.
Despite the growing tensions on border, the administration has not directed the locals to evacuate. However, the people are vacating on their own.
“People have sent their children to their relatives’ places. Some are staying back to take care of the livestock. Who would want to leave behind their homes? But this is a situation of life and death. We don’t want to take any chance,” said Ahmed.
The locals have been advised to stay indoors and schools have been ordered to remain closed. “The authorities asked us to remain indoors. But we are not going to be safe even inside our own homes in case things worsen,” said Nasir Khan.
The people are worried for their children as their exams are due in a few days. “The students are suffering the most. Their exams are in March and we are running from here and there. It is affecting their future now. They can’t go to schools as the situation remains uncertain,” said Ahmed.
For these people, it is a ‘war-like’ situation. “Every time the ties between two countries become tense, it is a war-like situation for us and we have to run for our safety. They should decide once for all,” said Tajwinder Singh of Lam village.
The administration is saying that adequate measures are being taken ensure safety of people. “As of now we have ordered the schools to be closed and asked the people to remain indoors. In case the need arises we will evacuate the people,” Rahul Yadav, divisional commissioner of Poonch.
“We are assessing the situation and if need arises we will postpone the exams of the students,” Yadav added.
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