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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Eyewitness: Kashmiri villagers flee mortars
A Hindu family leaves their village after coming under mortar fire from Pakistani troops across the border
More than 20,000 people have recently become displaced

Border migrants in Jammu are angry that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will not be visiting their camps during his three-day visit to Indian-administered Kashmir.


We left without anything

Abdullian villager
"Their faulty policies are making us suffer immensely and the prime minister has no time to see our plight", said Joginder Pal, who returned to his village on a tractor trolley to get essential household items.

Joginder comes from Abdullian village - 40km (25 miles) from Jammu - on the Indo-Pakistan border, which wore a secluded look on Tuesday.

Just a handful of youngsters were looking after the empty homes and the cattle that had been left behind.

Fleeing for life

Joginder fled after Monday's firing to stay with his friend about seven kilometres away.

"We left without anything," he said, thanking God profusely for saving him and his family as shells landed in an open space near his house.

"You can imagine what would have happened... that shell created more that two-feet crater."

Ladi, in his early 20s, was taking his two buffaloes to the village pond when he came under mortar shelling from Pakistan.

"All of us were taken aback as we had never witnessed mortars before."

Ladi knew from his father that the mortars never shelled the village after the 1971 war with Pakistan, although it happened in a few villages on the international border with Pakistan.

Almost all of the 500 villagers have fled their homes after more than a dozen shells landed in and around the village, with two of them even piercing though the concrete roof of a house.

Accusations

The firing on the border has started spreading to new areas along the Line of Control, or LOC in Rajouri district.

A Kashmiri comes out of a trench during a lull in cross border shelling between India and Pakistan
Border villagers live in constant fear

The overnight firing had left three persons killed, including two children.

The recent spell of firing have displaced more than 20,000 border villagers.

They are angry that the government has done nothing to save them from the continuous agony of migration following a renewed tension between India and Pakistan in December.

Heavy losses

The main occupation of the people in the border areas is farming and cattle-rearing but there are heavy losses on both accounts.

A Hindu family leaves their village after coming under mortar fire from Pakistani troops across the border

"This is third year running that we could not earn anything from our crop," Ram Parkash, another migrant from Abdullain, said.

Earlier, bad weather ruined it, and now the problem is the mining of the fields, and troops deployment.

According to official estimates, about 40,000 hectares of agricultural land has been affected due to militarisation.

Ram Prakash has shifted his family of three children, wife and mother to a friend in Ranbhir Singh Pora.

But he asks: "How long can my friend sustain my family?"

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See also:

21 May 02 | South Asia
19 May 02 | South Asia
18 May 02 | South Asia
17 May 02 | South Asia
15 May 02 | South Asia
16 May 02 | South Asia
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