Jammu migrants still awaiting return to villages
7 December 2002
Our Staff Reporter
Pallanwalla(Jammu): With the completion of almost a year since the Indian and Pakistani troops were amassed on the border, the people living near the Line of Control continue to wait for their safe return to their native villages. The troops on both sides went into an eyeball-to-eyeball mode after the December 13 attack on Parliament resulting in the displacement of over one lakh people. In the last one year, the Jammu frontier has been the most affected region in the country as the exchange of shelling on the border was rampant leading to the migration of people from the International Border as well as the LoC. The people took shelter in make-shift camps. Unlike the farmers living near the International border, those living near the LoC are financially weak. This is mainly due to the fact that the land near the LoC is not suitable for cultivation and the topography is hilly and most of the farmers have sold their land because of the frequent shelling. Yog Raj, a farmer of Pallanwalla says, '' Cultivation in this part is very difficult as any escalation in tension instantly leads to shelling. After every escalation, we have to recede. '' But farmers on both sides of the International Border continue to cultivate their land till the last inch, despite the three wars between the two countries. In the last one year, the people living near the LoC were the worst hit when the shelling was at its peak and many lost their lives as they could not be evacuated in time. Also, the residents rue the fact that the special benefits accorded to them were difficult to get as the procedure was very tedious and officials harassed them. At Devipur, in Akhnoor sector, thousands of families are still to return to their villages. The make-shift schools have been started. But the parents say that the education standard had gone from bad to worse. The return of the migrants to their homes seems remote with the onset of winter. A Defence official told The Hindu that with the high passes in Rajouri and Poonch district covered by snow infiltration of militants from Pakistan occupied Kashmir drastically comes down in the hilly tract. The scene of infiltration shifts to the plain areas of the LoC. In order to provide covering fire to the infiltrators, Pakistani troops keep the area hot, thereby affecting the normal movement of civilians.