3rd round: Villagers brave the bullet
30 September 2002
Reghal (Zero Line), Samba Sector: ''Chahe kuchh bhi ho jai hum yaha date rahenge. Har din Pakistan kaa golaa barood gaon me girta hai, par hum apna gaon chodke jaane ke liye taiyar nahin hai'' Balwanth Singh, head of this border village firmly said. Reghal, situated on the Indo-Pakistan border in Samba sector in Hiranagar Assembly segment in Kathua district of Jammu province is going for polls on October 1. The Pakistan forces resorted to mild firing when this correspondent visiting this tiny village. Reghal is surrounded by Pakistan border on three sides. ''The Pakistani forces are hurling bullets on us now and then to frighten us. You can see the bullet marks on Lord Shiva temple located in the midst of this village. Our dispensary building was totally damaged. Three months ago, The Pakistanis attacked us with a missile. But, we are not going to succumb to their pressure tactics,'' a 70 year old Thirth Ram said. The Pakistani forces failed to dissuade the villagers from taking an active role in electioneering. Buntings and posters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are visible in the village. ''In 1996 elections, we have voted for the BJP candidate. Recently, the BJP MLA Prem Lal left the party and joined the National Conference. We refused to provide him a chair and water when he visited our village few days back for changing his loyalties,'' said Yashpal Singh. Most of the villages along the international border are dominated by Rajputs and Brahmins. Villagers were seen enthusiastically discussing politics and voting trends. ''Most of us have seen wars and simultaneously participating in electioneering. Even in the present elections, we will cast our votes,'' said Sanjay Kumar Sharma. Several families shifted to other parts of the district by the defence forces have returned to their houses to use their franchise. The Army has set up land mines in their fields as these villages falls exactly on the zero line. Villagers were reluctant to cast their votes in thier respective make shift camps set up for border refugees. ''Casting our votes in a refugee camp is an insult to us. We want to cast votes in our village only. Otherwise, it will send a wrong signal that we are cowards and shown our backs to Pakistan bullets. We never allow to happen this,'' Sanjay Singh, a youth in mid twenties said. For an outsider, reaching this village is not an easy task. One has to pass through several security checks. One can see the Pakistani posts and flags from this village. Every house in these border villages have been equipped with a bunker. And, every voter is determined to retallate the Pakistani forces through ballot and prove them wrong.