Jammu: For border dwellers of Jammu and Kashmir, the trauma of seeing their loved ones die in front of their eyes is more than the fear of getting caught in the crossfire.
The border residents continue to live on the edge, ‘hoping against hope’ to safeguard themselves and their families from the mortar bombs fired by Pakistani troopers along the International Border (IB).
Jeet Raj of Sia Khurd border hamlet says the injuries on his body would heal, but the ‘wounds to his heart’ would accompany him to his grave.
He lost his wife, Bachno Devi, to cross-border mortar shelling on January 19. He and his son were injured in the incident.
“The wounds of my body caused due to splinter injuries will heal with time. But the pain of losing my wife will never leave me,” Raj said as his eyes welled up.
“We were heading to our agricultural field when the shelling started. As we rushed back, a shell exploded in the compound of my house. My wife was hit and she died in front of my eyes,” he said.
Raj said he rushed his injured son to the hospital, still grieving the loss of his wife.
“How long should the border dwellers remain sitting ducks and lose our family members to the Pakistani guns,” he asked.
Yesterday, a civilian was killed and two persons were injured in the Pakistani shelling along the IB in Kanachak belt of Jammu district, raising the death toll in the ceasefire violations since Thursday last to 12 and injuries to over 60.
Over 300 educational institutes have been closed for next three days along IB and LoC in Jammu region in the wake of increased tension along the Indo-Pak border.
Krishen Lal of Korotona hamlet is yet to come to terms with the death of his 25-year-old son in the cross-border firing.
“It is a curse for a father to see his son die so young. I lost my son Sahil to the cross-border shelling. He was an obedient child and used to help me in the fields,” says an emotional Lal, who is undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College.
“We bear the brunt of ceasefire violations. How long will our kith and kin keep getting killed? I want the government to find a solution to end it once for all,” he says.
Another heart-wrenching tale is that of the family of 17-year-old Ghara Singh of Kapoorpur border hamlet in RS Pura sector. Singh died on Saturday after being caught in the crossfire.
As the family prepares for the marriage of his eldest sister, Singh’s death has left a large void.
“Pakistani shelling killed my son. This wound to my heart will never heal. I have lost my support,” says Singh’s father.
“Ghara was looking forward to his sister’s wedding. He was busy arranging the event, but fate snatched him away from us,” the father says as he struggles to complete his sentence.
The bustling settlement of Arnia and a chain of border hamlets along the Indo-Pak border wear an empty look, with over 40,000 villagers abandoning their homes to escape heavy shelling by Pakistani forces.
Arnia town, with a population of 18,000, resembles a ghost town with only a few people left each in its adjoining hamlets to take care of animals and guard homes.
Farming, schooling, cattle rearing and everything else on which border dwellers survive has come to a halt due to the shelling episodes.
Deputy Commissioner Jammu, Kumar Rajeev Ranjan said 58 villages in Arnia and Suchetgarh sectors of Jammu district were affected due to shelling by Pakistan.
“Over 36,000 border population have migrated from their homes,” he said, adding 131 animals have been killed, 93 injured besides damage caused to 74 buildings and houses.
While most of the migrated border people are living with their relatives, over 1,000 are camped in boarding and lodging places set up by the state government in schools and panchayat Garh.
Over 5,000 cattle and bovines have been shifted from various border hamlets to safer places like Chakroi farm, Ranjan said.
In Samba and Ramgarh sectors of Samba district, over 5,000 people have migrated besides over 3,000 from Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, the officer added.