Member of Panchayat of border village Rajoke , Sukhbir Singh (42) has constructed a ‘kothi’ — a big pucca house — a kilometre away from the India-Pakistan border. One can clearly get a view of Pakistan from atop his house.
As of now, he is rather disturbed with many advocating for “strong action” against Pakistan after the Uri attack. But then, he is confident there will be no war between India and Pakistan in the near future.
“The Uri attack was unfortunate and Pakistan is apparently involved in it. But it doesn’t mean we should attack Pakistan. There should be many other alternatives to tackle that country,” said Sukhbir Singh.
Despite having fertile land and good savings, Sukhbir had not constructed a proper house for his family as he had been fearing war with Pakistan after having seen destruction of wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999.
These villages, however, have come out of this fear over the years after the Kargil war and now it is common to find big houses along the border. Punjab has 553-km long international border with Pakistan and 1,871 villages are notified as border area villages. “Life in the border villages has always been very different. I have seen with my eyes that all the houses in our villages were made of mud because everybody feared there could be war anytime. Militancy also affected our villages most. Then Kargil happened. But despite that bitter experience, people decided to stay put in this border area and made investments. We don’t want any other war,” said Sawarn Singh, a police constable from Rajoke village.
“We were only watching Doordarshan during Kargil war. But now there are many news channels reaching our villages. Many channels are advocating war with Pakistan. But they should understand that if war happens now, Delhi and Lahore would be the first cities to face the heat of war. We do not favour war. Stability has come in our villages in the past 15 years and we don’t want to migrate again,” said Harnam Singh, a young farmer from Ratto Ke village.
His 80-year-old grandfather Subegh Singh said, “Politicians can do anything. People on both side of border are the first ones to suffer. We should be asked before launching any war against Pakistan.”
Local MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha said, “During the 1965 war, the Pakistan Army had infiltrated around 35 villages of my constituency and they took away whatever they could lay their hands on. You would be surprised to know that they even took away wooden doors of some homes. Mehdipur, Ratto Ke, Mari Ke, Khemkaran, Kalas, Mian Wala were among the most affected villages. There was more economic loss than human casualties as people had flee to safe places.”
He said people were again forced to leave their house during the Kargil war. “Then, mines were laid out in the fields alongside the border. Standing wheat was damaged and people were given negligible compensation. People of my village, too, had to move even though we are 10 km from border,” said Valtoha.
Warning that war would bring “unimaginable destruction”, the MLA added: “Why did the Uri attack happen? Because of infiltration from border with Pakistan. The Indian government should invest money on scientific techniques to seal the border. Science has made vigil inside deep sea possible. It is not impossible to seal the border on mountains. It is better to spend money on such techniques than on war. If war happened, this time destruction will be more than your imagination.”