Chandigarh, September 29: As Director General Military Operations Lt General Ranbir Singh made the announcement in the morning of surgical strike inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to neutralize terrorist camps, panic gripped the border villages in Punjab. The fear was not unfounded. Within hours, the loudspeakers in the gurdwaras in the villages falling within 10 km of the border became alive with instructions from the government to pack up by 4.00 pmto evacuate in case the situation so required. Schools have been ordered to be closed all along the border belt with the education department officials in Ferozepur issuing circular announcing indefinite closure of schools. However, the staff is to remain present. Within minutes, the circular was on social media adding to the panic.
It is a war like situation in the border belt as it is the border areas of Punjab that turn into real theatre of war as it is plain area. Fields are cultivated by the farmers on both sides right upto the Zero line. Paddy is ready to be harvested. There is panic among the people. The Modi government has raised the pitch.
It is high time for the ‘TV room warriors’ who have been advocating war since the terrorist attack at Uri to visit the border villages to know what it means to face war. It is the people in Punjab who have experienced it both in 1965 and 1971. The Kargil skirmish was confined to a specific area.
“The government has issued instructions to be ready to move out short notice. Where do we go?”, asked a villager on the border line when contacted over phone. The farmer has a sprawling pucca house with all the modern facilities. The movement of people has already started.
For decades, the border villages in Punjab had mud houses. However, people started constructing pucca houses over the years. Now the entire border belt have pucca houses including sprawling mansions. The issue is not of just withdrawing the people from their villages. What about the cattle? What about their houses constructed with hard-earned money? Then there is the basic question of where to go. The camps to be set up by the administration are not the answer.
State Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh has rightly questioned the decision to get the border villages vacated as this would only add to fear. In 1965 war when Pakistan advanced into India in Amritsar sector, the supply line for Indian troops was maintained by the brave villagers who had stayed put. They supplied langar cooked in gurdwaras to the troops. The government did not order evacuation. It is the government that has now created fear of the unknown. Capt Amarinder Singh was the staff officer with Western Army Commander Lt General Harbakash Singh during that war.
The Pakistan government has questioned India’s claim of surgical strike while admitting the killing of two soldiers. But then army people have been dying in the routine cross border firing across LOC. In case this strike was a warning to Pakistan, then it is a different issue. However, closing the schools in the border belt in Punjab and asking people to be ready to leave their houses adds altogether new dimension to the situation.
Raising war cries while sitting in TV studios in Delhi is different from what people in the thick of it have to go through. None would say that Pakistan should not be checked. But it is creating panic that is different issue. The likes of Arnabs and Rahuls have been on the screens ever since the announcement was made about surgical strike creating war hysteria. They should shift their operations to the border and start reporting from other side of the border fence from Zero line as Pakistani side would also be clearly visible.
Wars are anti-people. It is the people who become the victims on both the sides, not the ruling elite. The economy takes years to recover. However, it is the global armament industry that prospers.
Ask the families that have suffered. Pray for peace.