Updated: January 23, 2018 5:12:52 am
“When we venture out of our houses in the morning, we do not know if we will return home in the evening,” says Maskeen Hussain. A few hundred metres away is a Pakistan Army post in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the surrounding heights are also held by them. This is the last border village in Poonch on the old road which linked the city with Uri through the Haji Pir pass.
Residents of Degwar are used to the fear of enemy bullets, given the fact that they spend every minute of the day under the close scrutiny of the Pakistan Army posts. It is not the firing that they fear much, but the mortar shelling. In this latest round of cross-border firing, they are relieved that mortars have not been fired here till now. The village sits on the valley floor with Pakistan Army posts located on the mountains on three sides. When the firing starts, there is no place to run and hide.
“Small arms fire is mostly directed at the Army posts these days so we can just hunker down and be safe. It is the mortars that are deadly,” says Badar Din. Two-and-a-half months ago, intense mortar shelling resulted in the death of two residents, injuries to scores and heavy loss of livestock. There was sporadic firing around the village last night too.
“We just want peace. We want India and Pakistan to talk to each other,” says Aman Aameen. The village is located ahead of the border fence and is cheek by jowl with the PoK village of the same name. Degwar was split into two in the 1948 hostilities between India and Pakistan and most villagers have their relatives on the other side of the LoC.
“Right now the situation is not as bad as on the International Border with Jammu because the civilian population here has not been targeted. But for how long,” asks Mohd Rashid.
A senior Army officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, said the situation is “uneasy”. “You never know when they may open fire. It is not necessary that mortar fire will be preceded by small arms fire. They just open up with 120 mm mortars all of a sudden,” he said.
It is dangerous to live in Degwar, but it is home, said villagers. And it was best summed up by Feroza Bi, an octogenarian who has her house right on the LoC, which causes much anxiety to the Army personnel who worry for her safety. Her sons live in Poonch town in relative safety but she refuses to leave. “I have lived here all my life, I will die here,” she said with a smile.
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