A week of relentless Pakistan shelling has driven 1,00,000 people from their homes in Jammu and Kashmir, reducing their villages to ghost towns and leaving their homes pockmarked, bearing the telltale signs of hostilities from across the border.
Soonam Kundal is busy gathering her belongings at her home in Keso village, a few kilometers from the border.
The 19-year-old is alone at home. On Tuesday evening, her father was curing a newly built boundary wall when a mortar shell landed in the compound of their house, injuring him, her mother and brother.
“My family has been shifted to government medical college hospital in Jammu,” says Kundal, who escaped unhurt as she was inside. She will be shifting to her aunt’s home.
Like Kundal, most of the people forced out of their homes in border villages of Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts have chosen to live with relatives. A few have opted for relief camps.
A village of 1,500, Keso is all but abandoned. Women and children have moved to relief camps, men join them at sunset.
Kundal’s aunt Ruby is critical of the government for leaving people to fend for themselves. “We have pleaded with politicians to provide us land at safer locations,” she says.
Fear dominates as Pakistani soldiers have targeted villages and BSF posts all along the 198km-long border. In the last one week, four people have died and 25 injured in Ramgarh alone.
A retried soldier, 61-year-old Des Raj blames the government for the situation. “We have experienced firing from across for decades but the intensity has increased ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre,” he says. Raj was to join his family at a relief camp in the evening.
The last border village of Nanga resembles a ghost town. Only a handful of the 3,500 people have stayed back, to look after houses and cattle. Ashok Kumar 53, whose neighbour’s house was damaged in firing, directed his anger at Pakistan. “They are killing innocent people in the month of Ramzan. How can we talk of peace when they have unleashed bloodshed on us,” he says.