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Shelling, not 370, big worry at LoC villages

India Today logo India Today 11-08-2019 Abhishek Bhalla
a house with trees in the background

There has been a massive security lockdown to keep the peace in the Valley after the Centre ended Jammu and Kashmir's semiautonomous status, by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution, and split the state into two Union Territories a week ago.

But in villages along the Line of Control (LoC), hardships (caused by difficult terrain and punishing climate), unemployment, poverty and poor education facilities are the big issues. In the Modi government's big decisions on J&K, they see hope for a better future.

There have been some incidents of violence in Kashmir. But if the calm on the Indian side along the LoC is shattered, it's only because of the heavy shelling from the Pakistani side. They want more bunkers for protection.

It was a busy Friday in Tangdhar Sector at the LoC as locals gathered for prayers. The market in the town that borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) was open and there were fewer police and security personnel on the streets. The population, comprising Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis, is cut off from the Valley.

"The activities in the Valley don't have a ripple effect in the forward areas bordering PoK," an official said. Locals said they have a different identity from those in Kashmir. They speak in a dialect they call 'Pahari' that sounds more like Punjabi.

For years, they have remained politically insignificant. Mohammed Maqbool, a shopkeeper in Tenghdar, said he has no idea about Article 370.

"Whether it exists or not, it has no impact on our lives. We need protection from shelling by Pakistanis. We have been appealing to the authorities to provide us with more bunkers," he said. Sources said 3,000 bunkers were approved long back but they have not been built yet.

On July 30, Pakistan resorted to heavy artillery firing, causing damage to property and also injuring some people. Fortunately, there were no deaths but locals are in fear. For the people here, the gateway to mainland Kashmir is the NC Pass or the Sadhana Top.

The place got its name many years ago when filmstar Sadhana went there. Locals said they enter Kashmir only when they cross this pass that is cut-off during winter due to heavy snow.

Shabbir Ahemed Shah, a 60-year-old farmer from Titwal village on the LoC, said if revoking Article 370 helps the youth get better education and jobs, then the move will be hailed. "We are extremely poor and often face discrimination from Kashmiris. If this decision can change this, it will be great," he said.

The area is largely under the Army's control with locals historically supporting troops in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971. AR Badhana, a former member of the legislative council, said the Gujjar community has always supported India and they are proud of it.

Also watch: ‘J&K’s Union Territory status is not permanent and will restore status once peace returns’, says Amit Shah

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"Revoking Article 370 is fine but the state should not have been bifurcated. Full statehood should have remained," he said.

The government has divided the state into two Union Territories: J&K and Ladakh. The youth in areas along the LoC are hopeful of a better future after the government's decision.

Amjad Dar, a bachelors student, said, "It will be great if we can get jobs. The area needs development. That's our big concern. Despite getting Getting jobs in Srinagar is also not easy." Rafiq Ahmed, who is preparing for his Class 12 exams, seconded him.

"Our parents are scared to send us to Kashmir. If the removal of Article 370 can get us jobs and security, our lives will change."

While there is no anger on the decision to revoke Article 370, the clampdown on communication is taking its toll on the people and that to ahead of Eid on Monday. Badhana said the government should ensure that supply lines of ration are not cut and communication is restored at the earliest, at least in this part, because there is no law and order problem here.

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