Forced to abandon their houses, standing crops and cattle after shelling by the Pakistani army, the residents of the once-sleepy border village of Hamirpur still hold out hope for peace between the two nations so that they can return to their home one day. Entering the village, one is greeted by locked doors and empty households, but more tellingly, by an overwhelming sense of dread that the blast of a shell could shatter the fragile silence at any moment.
“First take shelter behind this wall before we talk. We never know when a shell from across the line of control could land here and injure or even kill us,” says 42-year-old Tarsem Lal, who has been assigned the job of feeding the cattle that have been left behind.
The village, situated at a stone’s throw from the Line of Control, has been deserted by its inhabitants, some of whom have migrated to Jammu. Most though, have landed up at safe houses set up by the administration.
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Those living in the migrant camp assign the job of feeding the cattle by turns to two men, who come here every morning risking their lives.
Lal, accompanied by fellow villager Kulbir Singh (54), says people want peace to return, so that they can return to their homes.
“Who wants to stay away from a house which is constructed with so much hard work. It is our bad luck that whenever there is tension between the two countries we have to abandon everything and migrate from our houses,” Singh says. While the government has made arrangements for their stay in the safe camps and gives them meals, none have been made for providing fodder to the cattle. “These cattle would die, if we don’t risk our lives to feed them,” Singh says.