Border residents seek bunkers to avoid Pak shelling

PTI file photo for representation

As shelling and firing from Pakistan has intensified since August 5, more than two lakh people living near Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir are craving for underground bunkers for their safety.

The border residents feel insecure in the absence of underground bunkers which would shield them from the shelling in the past. During the late 1990s, the government had sanctioned both community and individual bunkers for the residents living near the LoC.

Some of these bunkers were constructed giving the border residents much relief as they would take shelter in these underground bunkers during the shelling. However, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and border areas on the Indian side of Kashmir on 8 October 2005, destroying a majority of these bunkers.

“After November 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, our lives changed for better and no need for bunkers was felt. Two years later when the earthquake hit, nobody felt need to reconstruct underground bunkers as there was peace on borders,” Lateef Chichi, a resident of Uri told DH.

As the 2003 ceasefire agreement by-and-large remained intact for over a decade, large numbers of houses, government schools, colleges and other buildings were built in the shelling prone areas along the LoC in Uri, Tanghdar, Keran and Gurez areas of north Kashmir, making people more vulnerable.

“After the 2003 ceasefire agreement, border residents were living peacefully without any threat of shelling. But from the last few years shelling started again and in the last two months, we are terrified as the intensity of shelling has increased in which dozens of houses were destroyed. Now we have no underground bunkers to take shelter during shelling times,” Chichi rued.

Fayaz Ahmad Abbasi, a retired soldier and sarpanch of Isham village near LoC in Uri, whose family had a narrow escape last month when a Pakistani shell landed near his house, said, “We are in the firing line. 1802 people live in the village and in the case of shelling the village is unsafe. I am constructing a concrete bunker on my own. It has cost me Rs 1.5 lakh so far.”

But, Abassi says, as everyone can’t afford to construct a concrete underground bunker on his own, the government must come forward and help people to construct individual and community bunkers for their safety.

Some of the villages in Uri that are in the firing line are Dulanja, Batar, Mariyan, Kamalkote, Shadra, Uroosa, Gwalta, Chakra, Isham, Mothal, Silikote, Hathlanaga, Balkote, Tilawari, Chotali, Sumawali, Maidanan, Gagarhill, Tilawari, Churanda and Banali.

Over one lakh people living in Tweetwal, Tanghdar, Keran in Kupwara district and Gurez area of Bandipora district are also in the firing line. Prior to 2003 ceasefire scores of people were killed in these areas and hundreds were injured.

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