Living on the edge

Just a harsh statement in Delhi or Islamabad is enough to provoke national media within seconds; it starts crying about the escalation at the borders on LOC. Then it gains momentum and within no time defense analysts of India and Pakistan, spokespersons of various parties, and ultranationalist anchors start fighting a war in the TV studios; then hours later breaking news flashes on every channel. The claims start to be the first one to report the heavy exchange of firing in Uri, Karnah, Karen Gurez, Ponch and Rajouri sectors. It is followed by TV channels praising administration and the army for evacuating civilian population to so called safer places. Next come reports of casualties of unarmed civilians and armed forces due to shelling and the number game begins, and humanity continues bleeding in Karnah, Karen, Gurez, Uri, Nowgam and other border areas. Then starts the race for TRP and every effort is made to exaggerate, and ensure that pot remains boiling. No stone is left unturned to praise the bravery of people of Karnah, Karen, Gurez, Uri and border areas for supporting the armed forces. However, when borders turn calm, the border areas especially Karnah, Karen, Uri and Gurez get out of sight of the national media and also from that of the local and Union government. It is shameful that when border are hot every shell and every single bullet becomes a headline, but when dozens of precious lives are lost due to natural calamities, on account of road connectivity and lack of other basic amenities, nobody gives a damn to these areas and their sufferings. Every year dozens of precious lives are lost in Karnah and Gurez valley only for the reason that the road remains blocked due to landslides and heavy snow fall at places like Sadhna Top and Razdan top. Even dead bodies need to wait for days together to reach to their kiths and kins but unfortunately it doesn’t become even a scroll item for the national media. Can anyone imagine what would be the fate of a pregnant lady stranded at Sadhna top in freezing temperatures and expecting miracles to cross twenty feet snow stretch spread over at least 5 kms and then reach Kupwara.

Let us not forget that Karnah and Gurez valleys have no alternate connectivity other than a single traditional road between Tangdar and Kupwara and Gurez and Bandipora. Unfortunately both the places are at a stone’s throw from the nearby hamlets on the other side of LOC. One may have many reasons to criticize Government on the other side of LoC, but the fact is that the population there, especially in border areas, enjoys better roads and other basic amenities. People of these border area always remain under surveillance of security and intelligence agencies but when they travel to rest of the Kashmir, on most of the occasions they are seen with suspicion, even few see them on some secret mission. These areas have no better schools, no adequate drinking water facilities, and get worst health care. The schools and few colleges hardly make any difference for the lack of infrastructure and adequate teaching facility. There is dearth of agriculture and horticulture land in border areas. Even the benefits of being residents of LoC do not reach all inhabitants and there is a huge discrimination in extending ST status to people and communities within border areas. Every year government talks of constructing concrete bunkers but nothing moves beyond assurances. It would have been in the interests of Government itself to develop Uri, Karnah, Karen, Gurez, Nowgam and other border areas as excellent model areas by providing them world class basic amenities. Let New Delhi not forget that border areas have been always comparatively calm and developing them in true sense would have made people of rest of the state understand the dividends of peace, but it is not happening. Building a tunnel at Sadhna and Razdan top will simply mean saving time, resources, lives and opening corridors of development to these remote areas. Union government must take a final call and start constructing work on the said tunnels on a war footing. If it has any hindrances in constructing the tunnel for Karnah, it must allow people of Karnah to use traditional Tangdar Uri road via Muzzafarabad after taking Pakistani Government into confidence, at least in harsh winters.