Life, and the absence of it, in border villages

Srinagar: Parvaiz Ahmad (name changed on request) is an army informer, which essentially makes him a pariah for the rest of the population in the Valley. He explains why he is an army informer and not anything else.
“I live in a remote village in Uri, which is a border area. That explains most of my condition. The course of our lives is dictated by the armed forces which many will tell you are present in a very large number here.
“My father used to guide the men who wanted to get arms training across the border. He would take them across. After being caught, he was tortured to death during the interrogation by the army in 2001. After his death, I would be called to the camp twice a day sometimes. In fact, the movement of people in the village was severely curtailed after his death,” he said.
Parvaiz abandoned studies after class 8 and started working as army informed under the guise of an army porter a few years later.
“But believe me I have not informed on any militant so far. Except for leaving this place I don’t think there is any other option for me than to continue working for the army. We live in a cage,” he said.
Parvaiz’s fate is shared by tens of hundreds of people, especially the ones who belong to the poorer sections of the society, in border villages. Those who can afford have permanently shifted to other urban areas of the Valley, where the army’s presence is not so dense.
Up to 300,000 people live in border villages of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts, while an estimated 70,000-100,000 soldiers and Border Security Troopers are other troopers are deployed in these areas, a soldier for every three to four people.
“One doesn’t have to die to see hell. We are living it each day,” said 67-year-old Azim (second name withheld) from a village in Uri.
“We can’t visit our relatives without their permission. Like other villages, entry to our village is regulated by a check post. If women resist frisking, the will be harassed in their homes. It is common knowledge that residents of border villages need to have special I-cards. People from other areas can’t come to our places without army’s permission. That is why we have never been heard in the media,” Azim said.
According to Azim, “nowhere else is it easy for a soldier to visit a home announced and do what he likes”.
“What is more painful is that people in Kashmir believe that all of us are army informers. Have they any idea of where and how we live?”
Churanda, Saidpora, Silikote, Hathlanga, Soura, Gawalta, Jabla, Salambad, Kamalkote, Nawarunda, Dardkote, Lachipora, Manyan, Banali, Chotali, Maidanan and Lagri are some of the border villages in Uri where people live under an atmosphere of perpetual siege.
Similar conditions are, more less, encountered by people in Keran, Pethharn, Dardkote, Hamam Markoot, Saidpora, Mandiyan, Kalaroos, Keran, Teetwal, Chabkote, Tanghdar, Dardpora in Kupwara and 15 villages in Bandipora’s Gurez sector such as Dawar, Neel, Jibran, Kurakbal and Telail.
Poor mobile networks and power supply intensify the sense of siege, said Ghulam Khan of Gurez.
“In the early nineties many families from Gurez went to Azad Kashmir to escape this life of misery. They have normal lives there, while we can’t even breathe without their (army’s) consent,” he added.
There are only about 20 families in Soura village of Uri, said a resident on condition of anonymity. The army has installed an artillery gun close to the homes.
“When you have a tope (artillery gun) near your house do you expect people to show any form of resistance? This is the reason why people marry off their daughters before 15 in these villages,” he added.
Thousands of acres of land have been occupied by the army in border areas and the civilian owners either get a paltry compensation or no compensation at all. Landmines have been planted in vast swathes of the occupied land, which has hit the livelihoods, especially in Churanda, Silikote, Rustum, Saidpora, Maidanan, Lachipora, Kamalkote, Dardkote, Nawarunda, in Uri, several villages of Gurez valley in Bandipora and Karnah, Tangdar, Kalaroos and Keran in Kupwara.
Safdar Khan, a resident of a border village in Kupwara, said, “We depend on forests for grazing cattle as there is very little land for agriculture. We collect firewood, wild vegetables and mushrooms and sell it to people in the town. If someone stops us from going to forests we will starve. And only army can stop us.”
Such a situation arose when the army carried out a prolonged search operation against militants in Manigah area of Handwara early this year.
“Our lives came to a standstill and nobody raised a voice in other parts of the Valley. We only know what we have to go through. And then people suspect all of us and call us army informers but do they know how many militants have we saved?” he added.

2 Responses to "Life, and the absence of it, in border villages"

  1. Rafique A Khan   April 5, 2016 at 7:50 am

    What a shame. One soldier for every three civilians in the area.

  2. Manu   December 13, 2016 at 10:23 am

    fantastic research and good article. Keep up the good work. You nailed it perfectly.


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