'Wrong' fence, a psychological barrier for Karnah residents

Though fencing along the Line of Control (LoC) erected in 2004 as part of the counter-infiltration measures has proven vital in the Army’s efforts to check infiltration, at least five thousand people of this remote north Kashmir tehsil, 180 km from Srinagar, are suffering immensely due to the “wrong positioning” of the fence.

As construction of the barrier started in early 2000s when the shelling across the LoC was a routine affair, Indian Army was forced to erect the fence inside one kilometre of its territory leaving at least 12 Indian villages on the other side of the fence.

Official sources identified Indian villages which fall on the other side of the fence as Kadhama, Semari, Teetwal, Byari, Amroie, Hind Chatkari, Forward Sodpura, Jabadi, Bijaldara, Gasla and Prenai.

“These villages have a population of about five thousand. During the day time they can cross the fence through special gates after proving their identity, but the gates are closed during the night,” they added.

The fence has created psychological barrier for the residents living on the other side of the barrier.

“We are Indians during day and after evening we are no longer part of our country. Our village has population of more than 400 and we have been living like prisoners for the last eight years since the fencing was complete,” Mohammad Iqbal Lone, a resident of Forward Sodpura told Deccan Herald.

The residents living on the other side of the fence have to inform the Army incase a guest visits them. “We have to informed about every movement we make and guests have to be registered first before they enter the fence gate,” he added.

The Army didn’t allow this scribe to move beyond the fence gate of Forward Sodpura village. “There are strict orders not to allow any journalist to move beyond this area,” the army official posted at the gate said.

Mohammad Mansha, numberdar of the village said that the Army recently disallowed Chief Education Officer (CEO) Kupwara to visit Forward Sodpura.

“There is a primary school beyond the fence and the CEO had come for inspection. However, the Army denied him the entry,” Mansha revealed.

The numberdar complained that no one from the civil administration ever visits the area. “The local MLA had come to our village during 2008 Assembly election to seek votes. Then he promised that he would take up the issue with army higher authorities. But since that day we have not seen him here again,” Mansha complained.

No civil or army official was ready to comment on the issue.

A senior army officer who wished not to be named told Deccan Herald that LoC fencing was strength multiplier. “Our ambush parties are always present beyond the fence during night. If someone can sneak through ambush, fencing provides further protection,” he added.

The barrier consists of double-row of fencing and concertina wire eight to twelve feet (2.4–3.7 m) in height, and is electrified and connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices and alarms in stretches where power supply is available.

The small stretch of land between the rows of fencing is mined with thousands of landmines, Army sources said, adding the fence has reduced infiltration by 80 per cent.

LoC fencing was completed in Kashmir Valley and Jammu region in 2004.

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