Villagers begin harvesting premature crop as tension simmers on borderOctober 8, 2016
Darshan Singh, an octogenarian, who lives one km from the Indo-Pak border at Dhanoe Kalan village in Punjab, has experienced the wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1999, and a military standoff between the two countries during 2001.
He and other elders in the village believe the latest tension because of India’s strike against terrorists in Pak territory shall also pass without repercussion.
“Nothing happened when India and Pakistan were at war. Nothing will happen now,” says Singh, looking at the machines he hired to harvest his premature paddy crop. He says he would have left his crop in the field for another week in normal circumstances. “But this is my only source of livelihood. So, as a precaution, I am harvesting it,” he explains, leaning on his walking stick.
Most in the village and nearby areas had decided to stay back, despite the recent government decision to move them to safer areas. Political parties and their leaders, including state Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, had rushed to placate the villagers and provide support.
After which, responding to the unrest over the evacuation order for villages in a 10-km belt along Punjab’s border, the Union government on Friday, October 7, revoked its decision.
Villagers will be allowed to return after nine days, the state government said. The evacuation was ordered on September 29, following India’s strikes across the Line of Control.
Punjab shares around 550 km with Pakistan, with six districts in close proximity of the international border. From news reports, nearly 1,000 villages within the 10-km radius of the IB were evacuated, in anticipation of shelling from the Pak side.
“The Punjab government is doing politics because of impending elections in the state. If the situation is so dire, why is the government not vacating villages in Rajasthan?” asks Sucha Singh, who has sent his wife and children to relatives in Chandigarh.
Punjab assembly elections are due early next year and the stakes are high for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.