Living in the fortified border villages in ‘Indian-administered Kashmir’ is not very different from being in a war zone. Violence, landmine explosions and cross border-shelling between the Indian and Pakistani armies have forever changed the lives of the people living in the border areas.
Thousands have lost their lives and property, while others have been left permanently disabled due to landmine explosions and heavy artillery shelling. As landmines remain planted to prevent infiltration on both the sides of Line of Control (LoC), venturing in forests to fetch timber or farming in the frontier fields can prove fatal as has happened in case of many villagers.
The border village of Churanda Uri on the Indian side of the LoC has a single entry and exit gate for villagers. Around 80 miles north of Srinagar, this village is home to 252 families and 1,319 people besides dozens of disabled people.
India and Pakistan had agreed to a cease-fire on the disputed border in November 2003. Before that, shelling and exchanges of fire between the two rival armies had become a routine since struggle for independence started in this part of Kashmir in 1990.
According to locals of this village, 71 people were killed in this small fortified village by mortar shells and bullets exchanged between the two armies. Not only this, there are dozens of cases where a person has lost his limb due to unexploded shells or landmines planted in the area to prevent any infiltration across the border. Barring minor aberrations, the ceasefire had been successful, providing major relief to the residents of borders areas of Kashmir but the scars of the cross border tension has left this village mourning since years.
The disabled villagers of Churunda who often visit Baramulla and Uri towns for relief narrate a painful story of this ‘war torn zone’. Almost every family has a different story of pain and agony to tell. Despite the large scale enormity done to their lives and livelihood, the cry for justice seems to be missing. These villages appeared to have been enveloped in hopeless resignation.
Despite truck load promises of state and central government to provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims, justice and compensation continue to elude them.
The cross border conflict has proven deadly for civilians from both the sides of border. These villagers have been living a life full of miseries for decades together.
(Nasir kachroo is a self taught freelance photojournalist based in Kashmir. A commerce graduate from Kashmir University, his work has been published in various local and national news organizations.)