Farmers in border villages of Samba, Kathua skeptic to cultivate land

Farmers remain reluctant to cultivate their lands along the international border (IB) in Samba and Kathua districts despite the government and security agencies trying to encourage and persuade them for the same.

The farmers in the border areas of the districts had abandoned thousands of kanals of fertile land along the international border which is ahead of fence for more than two decades due to the hostile atmosphere and frequent skirmishes between India- Pakistan in their areas.

Now the efforts are being made to facilitate farmers to cultivate their abandoned land as Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, SanjeevVermaalongwith civil administration and Border Security Force (BSF) officials toured the border villages to review the situation and encourage farmers.

The villagers on extreme international border villages are worried about their safety and are showing unwillingness to go ahead with the proposal.

Though some farmers have agreed with assurance of security cover from authorities, many still do not trust Pakistan Rangers.

Resident of international border village, BilluChoudhary of Dugh-Channi (ChanniFatwal) told Greater Kashmir, “In my village over 50 acre of fertile land is still uncultivated since 2001. How farmers can be safe when four BSF officials on duty were killed by the Pakistan Rangers in 2018. Is it possible to cultivate land under this situation? No one will go to the mouth of death.”

“Pakistan has done plantation and created a huge band on their side and it has caused risk for us (farmers),” Choudhary said.

We have many families whose entire land is ahead of the fence and they are not ready to cultivate it due to fear of being fired upon by Pakistan,” he said.

The BSF officials revealed that 80 percent of land ahead of the fence is not being cultivated.

“Almost 80 percent of land ahead of fence along the international border is still uncultivated. We are requesting farmers with the help of civil administration to cultivate the abandoned land,” said Inspector General (IG) Jammu Frontier, BSF, NS Jamwal.

Jamwal said that “People are not coming forward to cultivate land ahead of fences due to multiple reasons like cross border firing (from Pakistan), no irrigation facilities and wild animals.”

The IG BSF added, “The land ahead of the fence belongs to people and they are free to cultivate it. Hence, there is no issue of compensation.”

It is not that all the land along the international border is not being cultivated. In certain areas like Chicken-Neck area in Pargwal-Kanachak, the farmers are doing cultivation, added the IG BSF.

He added, “We are facing problems in Samba and Kathua districts where people do not come forward to cultivate their land ahead of the fence.”   

“Atleast 6000 kanal land between international border and Line of Defense is abandoned in Kathua. The farmers stopped cultivation of land after 1984 (due to militancy) and 1990 due to hostile atmosphere on India-Pakistan border,” said the Deputy Commissioner, Kathua, OP Bhagat.

“We have fertile land and it should be cultivated by the farmers. The administration and the BSF have been encouraging them during meetings with the farmers. We will start cultivation on land with the help of the agriculture department,” Bhagat said