Thursday, July 23, 2009

‘Locked up’ for 20 years, village demands freedom

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohar Jamsher (Fazilka), July 21 
It is an injustice which everyone admits, but no one addresses. One thousand residents of this village along the international border with Pakistan are being allowed restricted access to their homes for the past 20 years for no fault of theirs.

The village, which is surrounded by Pakistan on three sides, had its access from the Indian side cut off with a barbed wire fence in 1989 during the period of militancy in Punjab.

Since then villagers are allowed entry to their village through an iron gate, which is manned by the Border Security Force (BSF). Entry through the gate does not mean an easy access to their homes. They have to cross the Sutlej to reach their village, which they do through a makeshift bridge built by them. The village is inaccessible during the monsoon when the bridge is invariably washed away.

Farmers cross a makeshift bridge on the Sutlej from Mohar Jamsher village near Fazilka

This cruel hand has been dealt to the village despite the fact that another barbed wire fence has come up behind the village along the Pakistan border making the fence along the Indian side infructuous. Despite repeated petitions, a case in court and even assurances from the BSF, the gate is yet to go.

"The gate has ruined the life of a generation," says village Sarpanch Gurdeep Singh while talking to TNS. Leave alone monetary losses due to difficulty in moving crops, Gurdeep says what is more shameful is the loss of face the villagers have to face every day. "Due to the inaccessibility and checks on entry and exit even our relatives are not keen to visit us. We also face difficulty in getting marriage proposals and what is especially despicable is the physical checking of our womenfolk by BSF guards," he adds. BSF sources, however, disclosed that women constables would be posted on sentry duty at the border outpost soon.

Another resident Gurjant Singh says the inability of the state government to build a bridge across the Sutlej has led to various people misappropriating the funds given to build a temporary structure by public men. Gurjant says the village has been assured that permission has been granted for an iron and wood bridge, which will be taken up after the Jalalabad byelection. The village is part of the assembly segment.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who visited the village during a sangat darshan programme recently, has promised development in the area. "He will have to do a lot," says village 'nambardar' Phuman Singh. "Our girls have to travel 8 km to study after class V due to which many give up". He says there is also need for a dispensary and a waterworks with the ground water have high fluoride content.

The village will, however, vote for the SAD. "The state government is the only hope for our amelioration," says the Sarpanch adding they were hoping that the Chief Minister, who had helped them in the past, would come to their rescue again.

1 comment:

Aparna Bhatnagar said...

I want to know more about the village. It is amazing the people are still living in such conditions.