Sanjha Morcha

Living under shadow of death on border

The Tribune visits homes of soldiers and civilians killed in Pakistani shelling in the Jammu region. In most cases, the state government hasn’t provided succour, monetary or otherwise, to the affected families

The Tribune visits homes of soldiers and civilians who became victims of Pakistani shelling in the Jammu region. In most cases, the state government has not provided succour, monetary or otherwise, to the affected familiesLife on the border in Jammu and Kashmir is like a conflict zone with death staring people in the face 24×7. Dependent on peace between the Indian and Pakistani forces, the residents look towards an uncertain future as there seems no end to the hostility between the two neighbours.Besides the threat to their lives, their livelihood has also been hit as farming and cattle rearing, the two major sources of income for 90 per cent of the border people, have become difficult amid shelling. Their houses have become unsafe for living as mortar shells land any time. When Pakistan rains mortar shells, residents have limited options — to migrate to relief camps established by the government, move in with their relatives in the hinterland or look for bunkers, if any.The state and the Central governments have not constructed many bunkers in border areas. The demand for five-marla plots in safer places, as committed by both governments, has also not been met.Children living in border areas are the worst sufferers as schools in the zero to 5-km radius from the border, are shut at the time of shelling.The situation for the soldiers is no less difficult as they are always in the line of fire. They have to be continuously on guard and ensure that no infiltration takes place.Since January 1, 2018, 21 persons, including nine Army personnel, three BSF men and nine civilians, have lost their lives in shelling and firing on the Line of Control and the International Border.The intensity of border shelling and firing increased following the September 18, 2016, terror attack when Pakistani-sponsored fidayeen attacked a Brigade headquarters in Uri and killed 20 soldiers.

Martyred soldiers

Havildar Roshan Lal, 43, Nichlah village, Samba districtDied in a missile attack on a forward post in the Bhimber Gali sector on February 4, 2018.Incident: Havildar Roshan Lal along with Captain Kapil Kundu and three other soldiers were manning their forward post in the Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri district when the Pakistan army resorted to small-range anti-tank guided missile attack on their post and killed all four of them. Survived by his ailing father, wife and two children, Havildar Roshan Lal was the sole breadwinner of his family.Compensation: When Havildar Roshan Lal’s mortal remains were brought to his native village on February 5, hundreds of people, including Army officers and soldiers, reached there to pay their last respects to him and cremate the body with full military honours. The very next day, a couple of soldiers from Roshan Lal’s unit visited his house to complete the formalities so that the family would get the compensation from the Army on time. There has, however, been no communication from the government and no minister has visited them to offer support.Rifleman Satish Bhagat, 21, Gurasinghu village, Shamachak, JammuKilled in the Keran sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on July 12, 2017.Incident: Rifleman Satish Bhagat, the only son of Jeet Lal and Kamlesh Kumari who had joined the Army by following in the footsteps of his soldier father, was killed in the Keran sector when the Pakistani army resorted to sniper fire on July 12, 2017. His death shattered the entire family, parents and three sisters, two of whom are married. The younger sister studies in Class II.Compensation: After Rifleman Satish Bhagat’s death, his father Jeet Lal again started to work to support his family. At present, he is in Gujarat to earn a livelihood while his wife and younger daughter are alone in the village. Nobody visits them anymore. A few soldiers from Satish’s unit occasionally come to meet the family. Even after seven months of Rifleman Bhagat’s death, the state government is yet to pay compensation to the family.Subham Singh, 23, Mukandpur Choudharian village, Kathua districtKilled in a Pakistani missile attack in the Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri on February 4, 2018.Incident: Rifleman Subham Singh became the victim of a Pakistani missile attack on a forward post in the Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri district on February 4 while he was defending the borders by keeping the enemy at bay. Rifleman Subham Singh along with four other soldiers were given the task not to allow anyone close to the fence. For seven months, they were able to keep the infiltrators at bay. A missile attack by the Pakistani army on February 4 killed Subham Singh. He is survived by his father, a marginal farmer, mother, three sisters, two of whom are unmarried, and a younger brother.Compensation: Two ministers in the state Cabinet are from Kathua district, including Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, but none of them has visited the family to provide relief or even express condolences. The family lived in a mud house before Rifleman Subham Singh joined the Army. Life had improved but the family has been shattered by Subham’s death. The Army is still completing the documental formalities for the compensation but the government has made no efforts to provide them any relief.Havildar Ravi Paul, 42, Sarwa village, Samba districtKilled on September 18, 2016 during the Uri terror attack.Incident: In one of the deadliest terror attacks on an Army installation in Jammu and Kashmir, fidayeen from Pakistan carried out an attack on the Brigade headquarters at Uri on September 18. Eighteen soldiers were killed in the attack while two soldiers succumbed to their injuries later, taking the toll to 20. Havildar Ravi Paul, who was also killed in the attack, is survived by his wife and two sons.Compensation: When the mortal remains of Havildar Ravi Paul had reached his home in Sarwa village, ministers, local leaders, Army and police officers and officials of the district administration had joined his funeral procession. After Havildar Paul’s death, his wife Geeta Rani got a job at the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The family has received the first instalment of the compensation by the Army.

Helpless civilians

Gopal Dass, 43, Kanachak village, Jammu districtKilled in Pakistani shelling on January 21, 2018, at the Kanachak area along the International Border in Jammu.Incident: Gopal Dass, the binding force of the family, was killed when a mortar shell fired by Pakistan exploded in a lane near his home in Kanachak on January 21 evening when he and his elder brother Ram Dass (46) were returning home. Gopal succumbed to his injuries while being taken to a hospital in Jammu, while Ram Dass is recovering. Gopal is survived by his wife Manju Devi, son Abhimanyu and daughter Akshara.Compensation: After Gopal Dass’s death, local BJP MLA Sukhnandan Choudhary and Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha MP Jugal Kishore assured full support to the family, which included a job to Manju Devi, admission to Abhimanyu in Sainik School and quality education for Akshara. But even after 17 days of Gopal’s death, they have not received any help. The Red Cross Society donated Rs 1 lakh to the family. Apart from that, the family has not received a single penny from the government. Being a civilian, Gopal Dass’s family will not receive any compensation from the armed forces.Gahar Singh, 50, Bera village, Suchetgarh, Jammu districtKilled in Pakistani shelling on the International Border in the RS Pura sector on January 20, 2018.Incident: Gahar Singh along with his family was at his home when a shell landed inside and he was hit by splinters. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and then to Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu, where he was declared brought dead. He was the main earning hand in the family and is survived by his wife Sukhanaya Devi and three sons, who have no source of income.Compensation: With the help of villagers, Sukhanaya Devi performed the last rites of her husband at a cremation ground in RS Pura town while she continued to live in a relief camp. Suchetgarh MLA Sham Choudhary, who is a minister in the state government, provided some money to the family for performing the last rites and managing their stay in the relief camp. Apart from that, the family has received no compensation from the state government. Though the district administration has noted down the details, the family has received no relief.Ravinder Kour, 19, Jerda village, SambaKilled in Pakistani shelling on November 1, 2016.Incident: Ravinder Kour from Jerda village of Samba district was cooking at her home when a mortar shell fired by the Pakistan army landed in the kitchen and killed her on the spot. A total of eight persons were killed on that day at various locations on the International Border when the Pakistan Rangers targeted civilian areas. Her house was severely damaged in the incident.Compensation: Ravinder Kour’s father Zorawar Singh has been moving from pillar to post to get compensation to repair his damaged house and Rs 5-lakh ex gratia promised by the state government.Marha Ram, 60, Anju Devi, 29, Rishab, 6, and Abhi, 4, residents of Rangoor Camp and Kairali villageKilled in Pakistani shelling on November 1, 2016, at Rangoor camp village of Samba district’s Ramgarh sector.Incident: On November 1, 2016, Anju Devi, a resident of Kairali village in RS Pura, along with her son Rishab had gone to her maternal home in Rangoor Camp village of Samba to celebrate Bhai Dooj when a shell landed inside the house killing four persons and injuring three others. Anju Devi, her father Marha Ram, son Rishab and nephew Abhi were killed in the incident while her brother, sister-in-law and niece were injured. Villagers were angry with the government and demanded justice.Compensation: The family suffered a huge loss in terms of lives and property. The government has paid them only Rs 5 lakh as ex gratia. Though two members of the family were killed in Pakistani shelling, the administration is yet to give compensation for the other member. Anju Devi’s family has got some ex gratia in RS Pura.Inputs from Amir Karim Tantray in Jammu, Vishal Jasrotia in Samba and Sanjay Pathak in Kathua. Compiled by Amir Karim Tantray)