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4-min read

Why Don't They Fight Their War in Delhi and Lahore, Ask Battle-Weary LoC Residents

Receiving little or no help from the government, the residents have started a community kitchen and are managing to sustain with whatever they have.

Aakash Hassan | News18@Aakashhassan

Updated:March 5, 2019, 9:48 AM IST
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Why Don't They Fight Their War in Delhi and Lahore, Ask Battle-Weary LoC Residents
People sitting at a shrine where they usually take shelter in times of border conflict. (Image: Aakash Hassan)
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LoC, Chajla: On the night of February 23, Haji Ghulam Abbas was shaken after mortar shells started landing in his village Chajla — a scenic hamlet spread across a hill at the Line of Control in Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

The villagers have come to terms with the rampant bombing at the volatile de-facto border between India and Pakistan for almost half-a-century. However, this time, Haji was flummoxed by the deafening noise of the blitz.

A white-bearded man who always wears a smile, Haji was eight years old when India and Pakistan fought a war in 1965. In the 17-day skirmish, which caused havoc on both sides of the border, Haji’s village had suddenly turned into a battlefield. Since then, Chajla, like hundreds of other villages on the LoC, has been ensnared in an everlasting war.

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A house collapsed in parts in the February 23 mortar shelling.

“Memories of war can’t be erased even for a thousand years,” said Haji, despite having vague memories of the combat days. But this was the start of confrontations.

During tense situations, the elderly man prefers to stay in his Dokh, a shack made of mud and wood, as the firing hardly scares him now. But, on February 23, a paranoid Haji asked his family and the villagers to leave in the dead of the night.

“The shelling was intense. It looked worse than 1965 war,” described Haji.

Amid all the bombing, over 1,500 families walked down the hill and fled their houses carrying their terrified children, the locals said.

Few ambulances rushed to their village and locals used their cars to help people escape. Most of them moved to their relatives’ place in the neighbouring villages, which were relatively safe.

However, few of them, like Haji, were left at the mercy of God.

Since then, over 400 hundred people are putting up in a shrine situated at a few kilometres away from Chajla. Nestled in the mountains, the shrine also falls within the shelling range, but they survive because of faith.

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The shrine where villagers take shelter during times of conflict.

“In times of war, faith is what keeps us alive. Otherwise, we would have died long back, not by bullets, but with the fear of war” said Haji.

A few days ago, mortar shells blew up a house, just a kilometre away from the shrine, and killed a woman.

Receiving little or no help from the government, the residents have started a community kitchen and are managing to sustain with whatever they have.

“A few days ago, some government officials came to us and gave us 20 blankets. But, what would 400 people do with 20 blankets? So, we returned those asking them not to mock our situation,” said Ghulam Mohuildeen, another villager.

To make situations worse, there is no hospital in the near vicinity. Therefore, in order to visit a doctor, people have to first walk for seven kilometres and then board a cab or bus to reach a clinic. Some women and children who are already ill are being treated with home-made remedies.

Exhausted by the unending skirmishes, some have left this area and settled in Jammu and other safe zones. Most of them work as labourers, farmers and rear cattle. Some are soldiers in the Army and few have moved to the Gulf countries to work.

“Those who can afford a living outside have already left but most of us cannot afford to do so,” said Mohuildeen, who also works as a labourer and does some odd jobs.

“On festivals like Eid, Diwali and Holi,” said Haji, “exchange of fire and shells have become some sort of a norm. They celebrate the festivals like this and we keep praying for our lives.”

Sometimes, the villagers say, it is a simple cricket match between India and Pakistan which escalates to intense shelling.

“With every wicket or a good score, there comes firing and when the match is over the real game starts here,” he described with a smirk.

“This is the tragedy of our life,” Haji said.

Most of the villagers vote in every election with a hope that the next government will be able to give them bunkers for shelter, if not peace — the hope of which they have lost long ago.

“It’s enraging when we listen to our politicians talking about war,” said Mohammad Jalleel, a villager who has lost his brother a few years ago in the shelling. “They can’t even imagine how it feels,” he added.

“Why don’t they fight the war in Delhi and Lahore,” asked the bereaved man in utter helplessness.

Over the years, hundreds of people have been killed in the cross-LoC shelling. Their villages are shelled regularly, which compels them to flee. But after a brief lull, they return to the same village.

“Our village is a playground for them. They keep experimenting with bullets and their advanced weaponry on us. Who is there to ask a question,” said Haji.

The tension between India and Pakistan escalated after a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a bus part of CRPF convoy. Forty troops were killed in what is believed to be the most deadly attack on the forces in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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