Ghulam Mustafa, the sarpanch, was two years old when the 1971 war changed his village forever. Then part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Boudgam was captured by the Army and has since been part of India. And based on what his elders have told him, the sarpanch says life is better now than it used to be.
Situated in the mountains 26 km from Kargil town, the small village of 95 households shows most of the basic signs of progress — electricity, a primary health centre, schools, and wood-and-stone houses built in typical Ladakhi style. Where it is lacking is in direct road connectivity. It does have access, though, to a road through rock and sand mountains, constructed under the Gram Sadak Yojana, that stops near the Army formation. From there, villagers have to trek 5 km across the mountains. The bus makes two or three trips to Kargil everyday.
Elders have told the sarpanch of the old days when the village were much farther from the nearest town in Pakistan. “Our village and neighbouring Haril, which has 20 houses, were under Pakistani control when the 1971 war broke out. The Indian Army pushed away the Pakistani soldiers,” Mustafa says.
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“It proved a blessing. Today, we are only 26 km from the district headquarters. Had our village been still part of Pakistan, we would have had to travel hundreds of kilometres to Skardu. And the government has also promised us a road right up to the village within the next few years.”
Patrolled by soldiers, the village shares a deep bond with the Army. During winters, the temperature drops 20 degrees below zero and villagers depend on the Army for their basic needs. Dozens of youths have joined the Army, besides other forces such as the BSF, the CRPF and the police, while the Army also engages villagers as porters.
“I got selected by BSF recently and am waiting for the call letter,’’ says Ghulam Mehdi, 21. “Almost everybody in our village has worked for the Army as a porter and they are ready to help us in any emergency.”
Working as a porter can earn a villager between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000. “The Army engages our boys for six months and they take rations and equipment to the forward posts,’’ says Bashir Ahmad, who teaches in the village.