No bunkers at LoC

Several villages have been evacuated but the administration has failed to provide most of them with a place to go

The last village in Mendhar sector on the Indian side is Chhajla Patri, Mallah. Newslaundry learnt that around 20-50 families were evacuated from the village by the police. Muhammad Hanief, a resident of Chhajla Patri, says people started to leave at 11 pm, in the dead of night. “At about 5 pm on Tuesday, there was heavy firing till about 11 pm. We left at 11 pm. About 30 families moved to Ishat village in Keeni. The Jammu and Kashmir Police evacuated us.”

Hanief says intermediate firing has been going on since last evening. “Jets were hovering over our heads all night. There was also heavy bombardment when we left our homes.”

The state government failed to divert essential commodities to distressed people in need. Newslaundry learnt that the people evacuated have not been provided with shelter or food. Hanief’s family is living with relatives. “The government is nowhere to been seen. People have nothing to eat. The government has not helped us in any manner.” His house was damaged due to heavy Pakistani shelling.

In 2018, the Union government proposed the construction of 1,440 bunkers for residents living in the border area of Jammu division. The government had said that the bunkers will help residents protect themselves from Pakistani firing and shelling in the event of ceasefire violations. Syed Amjad, a local from Jammu city, says the government is yet to complete the proposed bunker project.

He says: “The Modi government proposed the project in January 2018 but the project has yet to be completed even after a year has passed. Some families have been given possession of the bunkers but that was only for photo-ops. The actual project is still pending.”

Authorities in Mendhar, however, are apparently still in denial about the Pakistani shelling, telling Newslaundry no one has been evacuated so far. SDM Mendhar Sahil Jandyal says, “So far, there has not been any evacuation. In case of an evacuation, authorities are ready. We have made proper arrangements of ambulances and doctors, and people will be provided food as well.”

Meanwhile, the District Magistrate, Jammu, says schools located 0-5 km from the LoC and the international border have been closed.

On the northern side of the LoC in Kupwara sector’s Tangdhar, Nagin, Jabri, Kandi, Batpora and Chomkote—only a few kilometres from the LoC—no one has been evacuated so far. Ishfaq Ahmed from Tangdhar, says people are living in fear due to the heightened tension. Demands for bunkers are growing as the possibility of war intensifies. He says: “Either there should be talks between the two countries or the government should provide us with the bunkers, similar to the proposal for the people living in Jammu areas. People here live in fear due to the cross-border shelling and firing.”

Ahmed says the bunkers in the area were destroyed in the 2005 earthquake and were never rebuilt afterwards as people didn’t see the need. “There was peace between both countries. But things have changed drastically now.”

In the border village of Kamalkote in Uri, there are no bunkers for the villagers either. Imtiyaz Ahmed, a local, says: “I left home at 2 am along with my children to go to a relative’s house a few kilometres away. We have no food or shelter. The government has failed to provide anything to us. We don’t know from which side the bomb will kill us as we live in a shed.” The 2005 earthquake destroyed the village houses and ever since, he says, the people have lived in tin sheds.

However, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Uri Riyaz Malik claims authorities have “a plan for evacuation, transportation, rehabilitation and medical facilities” but that there’s no need for panic at the moment.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, hundreds of families living in the most vulnerable areas along the LoC in Pakistan-administered Kashmir have been evacuated from their villages in view of the cross border firing. About 2,000 people have left Khuiratta, Charhoi and Tattapani sectors. Many from Naykal sector in Pakistan will be moved out soon.

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