Displaced during 1965 Indo-Pak war, inhabitants of this Kupwara village fear for their future

This issue video reminds us of an expanded, modern and experiential version of the story ‘Toba Tek Singh’ written by Saadat Hasan Manto. That story followed inmates in a Lahore asylum, some of whom were to be transferred to India following the 1947 Partition. That story is a powerful satire, and here, in this issue video, we can see that people are living a disenfranchised life, in penury and without hope, post the war of 1965 between India and Pakistan. 

When India and Pakistan were at war in 1965, people of Pachnar, Machil Kupwara, were evacuated from there and rehabilitated in the Doban area. “We were in good condition in Pachnar, we had a lot of cattle and land there, but we lost everything in the 1965 war. 40 households had to migrate after constant firing. We were in the middle of Line Of Control. '' One elderly resident mentioned, remembering the days of displacement.

The Indian army was providing food and shelter for them and later the Government helped them rehabilitate in 1966.

But, after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the Forest Act became applicable in Jammu and Kashmir and the forest department claimed their rights on the land that was given to these people by the Government of India. The 50% of the land they were using for farming will no longer be theirs as they have to give it back to the Government. This is going to affect their livelihood in every possible way. 

“We do not come under the Schedule Tribe Certification, that troubles us. We were allotted 220 Kanals of land (1 Kanal is 0.125 Acres) for us at that time in 1966, now our population has grown, we are 200 households now. There was a little forest land too. Now the Forest Department is saying you have to leave the land as it belongs to the Forest Department. This land was useful for our herds of sheep as we used that land for grazing.” Another resident expressed.

According to the Forest Department, people have illegally occupied 250 Kanals of land. 

Doban is a backward area, 40 kilometres from district headquarters, situated in Lolab Valley. They do not have any hospitals or schools here and hardly any other source of livelihood than rearing cattle. Recently people have taken interest in Sheep Farming. 

They were speaking about the diseases that the sheep are suffering from, and how they have to see them die without treatment, as there are no visiting veterinary doctors. 

The school is 5 kilometres away from the village, and as the roads are bad, most children prefer staying back in the village itself. On top of that, there is hardly any network for online classes in Pandemic times, and the parents can’t afford smartphones for the students.

Seeing our community correspondent, one villager mentioned “because there is no phone network, we need to shout and yell to people from far away. Now I am calling them to tell their stories in front of the media.”

When someone falls ill in the village, they have to carry the patient along with the bed to other health centres, because the roads are full of gravel, hilly and uneven. Also it snows a lot in winters there. There are no Anganwadi centres in the village, nor ASHA workers visit the village. 

There is water available in the village, but people complained it is not filtered, they were given the drinking water directly from the stream, even the animals use the same stream. There is no water storage facility in the village. The same pipes that were installed 50 years ago are now rusting. In winter, they can’t use the piped water as the pipes get jammed with snow.

This is an issue of displacement and rehabilitation. And it is getting complex because of the abrogation of Article 370. Hope different organisations working on Human Rights and Housing issues will come and raise their voice together for this village in Doban.

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