Forlorn, and Forgotten

For a simple blood test, they have to come down to Kupwara, 65 kms away

Beyond firkiyan top, life is miserable butsimple. My recent trip to this border town proved a learning experience. Keranis secluded, a cluster of three revenue villages. Some 190 Kms away fromSrinagar. It is sliced into two. Kishenganga/Neelum River acts as a naturalbarrier. Keran is sandwiched between mighty margins of two nuclear neighbornations.

I got permission from district magistrate'soffice. As the cab crossed Trehgam, it was stopped seven times to check theidentity of passengers. Travelling down firkiyan is tough on rugged roads. Inthe era of Global village, Drawah (old name of Keran) is bereft ofcommunication. When cell-phone is ruling the roost, it proves defunct in thisill-fated area. Keran is a velvety green carpet with haunting beauty. Thissector is breathtaking but a vulnerable zone as well. There is a looming threatin this nature's marvel due to towering rage on borders. The daily hasslesinclude the absence of roads, electricity, frisking, and shortage of essentialcommodities. Medical care is ailing. For simple blood test, they have to comedown to Kupwara, 65 kms away. Construction of hospital is lingering for lasteight years. There has been a sharp rise in death of expecting mothers due toinadequate medical facilities.

Borders must be meaningless. It hasseparated hearts. The most intimate relations live stone's throw from eachother but can't talk or meet due to hardcore policies. As the armed insurgencyerupted in Kashmir, 90% of population in this fateful region migrated to otherside of the border. The footprints of partition are visible here.

Keran has a brilliant past. It was a famousroute to Shardapeeth-just 35 Kms away. Historical evidence proves that ShriMaharaja Hari Singh, Kashmir's last monarch used to stay here overnight. Aspecial palace had been built for him. Now, 12 ft high electric fences withbarbed wires have been put up so that infiltration is nearly impossible. Fearcontinues to grip these displaced citizens. Lingering threat has settled inlike a layer of dust that refuses to be washed away. They are living theunofficial war. They have become readymade targets of cross border shelling.Tit-for-tat firing means more distress, more uncertainty. The residents ofKeran find themselves stranded in the middle of the battlefield.

In the 90's, their relatives migrated toManakpayan refugee camps. Across, they yearn to come home and meet therelatives, their siblings, parents and children. They have become thecollateral damage of the hardline reactions on the border. They are caught upin the memoriess of the families they continue to be separated from. Theirfrustration is growing. They are tired of waiting, of hoping. Ceasefireinitiative of 2003 proved a breather. They came on the banks of Neelum andstarted talking; exchanging pleasantries, even during Eid festivities,souvenirs and sacrificial meat was also distributed among relatives.

Anam Zakaria, in her widely acclaimed book,"Between the Great Divide" writes that the Kashmir conflict, which began as abattle over land, has become a war of civilizations over the decades. It is astory of loss and gloom. Kith and kin are separated by boundaries.

This territory experiences 21 hourload-shedding daily. Annually, officials from district headquarter come for customarydarbaar. This well-knit community is ghettoized. Keran is the place where themind is not without fear. As I leave, cows moo and goats bleat in thebackground, probably conveying that they are voiceless but worst sufferers ofthis conundrum.

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