The Frontliners

Amidst the cacophony of political rhetoric and almost nauseating chest-thumping that follows every cross-border fire exchange between Indian and Pakistani troops, the voices, trials and tribulations of one particular group are conveniently ignored. Those living close to the border on both sides bear most of the brunt of these skirmishes.
Jammu and Kashmir has a number of villages along the LoC, hardly 1 km away, in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh sector.One of such villages is Nanga Village in Vijaypur district in Jammu and Kashmir. Vijaypur is about 50 kilometres away from the winter capital Jammu, and Nanga is located further inside Vijaypur.
The inhabitants of this village are mostly Sikhs (with a little population of Dogri speaking Hindus ) who migrated from (now) West Pakistan after 1947 (specifically from around the Chamba Jaurian Sector).
A resident of Nanga Village, Bir Kaur sums up the struggles of living in this volatile Border Area, “We are thankful for the then government for providing us with the land and recognition , but where did they shift us? From one hell to another. We left our age old homes in area, which had become dangerous for us, for yet another dangerous area. Just 1km from the border.” Says Bir Kaur.The walls of Bir Kaur’s Verandah destroyed by shells during a cross border firing on 22nd September 2017.
Bir Kaur’s grand daughter Amandeep, a graduate in Economics, recalls how various local journalists visited their house the very next morning of the shelling. While no representative from the Army or Government ever visits the affected sights, let alone receiving any compensations.
Ashok Kumar showing the shell that hit his house which he has preserved all this while. “This is just an ongoing thing for us. Every day we live in a fear of yet another shelling across the border. I have been thinking of repairing my walls but what is the use.”
Ashok Kumar,s family was not at home when the shelling happened, at 1 AM, otherwise there might have been some causalities as the shells reached right inside the main room of the house.
Apart from the damage done to his house, Ashok Kumar lost one of his cows to this shelling and another one was severely injured. “The value of these cows now must be of around 40,000 rupees.”
The cow inside the shed is being locally treated by Ashok Kumar.
The houses are pock-marked with impacts from the shells and LMG bullets, some of them even have sustained structural damages
House of Parsnath, a resident of Nanga Village, whose house was hit by the shells from the border. “Fortunately, only one of his outer walls was destroyed.” says, Somnath his neighbour. . “Other houses have been hit worse.” The threshold of devastation of these villagers is so high that they are grateful and thankful that no human lives were compromised.
The ceiling of yet another resident’s washing area was hit. Jasvinder recalls how her father called her at night saying that the shells have hit their nearby houses and soon after that they heard a sound outside, it was the shell that had hit this particular ceiling.
“This is our everyday life. We are used to it now, it is normal for us.” Says Jasvinder. “We do not want to leave this village, my family has been living here since 1947, moreover we have our agricultural lands here and we work on them ourselves. This is our home. We just pray every day that peace prevails between these two countries and we live in peace, for once.”
One of the shells also hit inside the village Gurudwara compound seriously damaging its structural integrity and leaving a visible crack in the inner wall. It is being repaired through the Gurudwara Fund.
Despite living in conditions where shell bursts have become eerily familiar sounds, the residents still consider themselves better-off than some other villages in the border area where the shelling have claimed several lives. Weathering literal hail of bullets, the life in Nanga moves on, the resilience and courage of the residents here standing in stark contrast to the apathy they are subjected to.