June 21: Kashmir always remained a mystery due to its inherent issues and problems. Some call it incomplete work of partition; some agonized tale of freedom loving people; so and so on, depending on which chunk of political ideology people swear with. Latest issue is that of citizenship of lakhs of West Pakistani refugees, who crossed over into Jammu and Kashmir after bloody episodes of 1947.
Kashmir centric political parties devoid of anti – or pro – India sentiments refused to address the issue stating it is just part of the over all tussle of India and Pakistan; with resolution of bigger issue (read Kashmir) everything else will settle down.
Nobody knows when the issue will settle down, if it will, but the tale of border migrants who live under the awe of terror and uncertainty remained unresolved even after being the citizens of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. They still crave for their hearths on the other part of the state. Ujagar Singh is one of them. The correspondent met him a year back near Indo-Pak border in the wilds of Sai Kalan area of Jammu region. Informal chat revealed a story unheard of, unknown to the outside world. With a penchant of feature writing and suitably used quotes, this is what came out of 3 hour long informal chat, starting from the blood thirsty environmental of partition of the country.
It was past midnight but calmness of darkness was nowhere. Humans impatient, animals making unusual signs of restlessness, something unthinkable was about to happen. At that time a boy in his early teens was fetching water for the gathering of much old people, assembled at his home.
This is not a scene from some parallel cinema but that of the night when thousands of inhabitants from across international border crossed over to this side. It was the time when Kashmir issue was born as borders were being redrawn.
Ujagar Singh now in his late seventies recalls everything as if it has been written on his backside of the hand. He had barely witnessed ten springs of his life, when subcontinent got divided and with it those numerous wars and conflicts, raised heads. “Subcontinent got divided and we have been paying the price throughout our lives,” Singh vents out his decades old anger.
Every time, when India and Pakistan exchanged animosity Singh paid the price. First it was the division of the subcontinent, which forced him to migrate from Chamb area, now in Pakistan administered Kashmir, in 1947 into Jammu. After few months he left back for his native place, where he played among his buddies, without ever giving a thought about the religion he follows.
“When we migrated to Jammu, we had to spend few months in a camp near Muthi but then we went back as my father was longing for his native place,” Singh said while remembering his father Durga Singh, who died after three years in 1950 at Chamb.
Even after that life moved smoothly for the family, which included Singh, his mother Panj Devi and wife Krishna Devi without an inkling that they have to migrate again and this time, might be, for ever.
1965, borders begin to quench thirst of blood, warring countries started bombing their neighborhood, Singh started his one-way journey towards other side and stayed at Ramkote, Jammu for more than 2 years. “My father moved back to that side but I had no option,” Singh usually says with moist eyes.
Indian government gave 3-acre land to Singh as has been provided to other migrants. “Land brought me to Sai Kalan and here we started life afresh,” Singh expressed. From that very movement he is acting as Numberdar of Bhula Chak, one of the border villages in R S Pura sector, Jammu.
Lull was short lived as Singh along with his fellow inhabitants had to migrate into inner areas, when war of 1971 broke out. “When the feeling of stability was entering into our lives, we had to migrate to safer places, we remained confined to a camp at Bishna for more than 6 months,” Singh says with a curse pointed nowhere. “I have been a child of migration and still I had been migrating,” he adds.
After six months inhabitants came back to their fields to clear used shells and mines with a hope that now peace would prevail. “We came back to Sai Kalan and kept ourselves busy with our life and fields,” Singh occasionally blurts out but thoughts of uninterrupted shelling from 1996 to 2002 looms over his mind. “Everything was going on smoothly, then insurgency started in 1990 but we were quite busy with our life and then suddenly we woke up to the sounds of shelling and bombs rocketing into our fields and on our houses,” Singh said while trying to present the state of mind of a border inhabitant.
“During these years it was much painful as we started losing our brethren along with our crops.”
People like Ujagar Singh, who remained busy throughout their lives for a better future and secure life, are now pessimistic about the latest developments between the war-torn countries of sub-continent because of “unwillingness” of two sides to come out with a solution. “Ceasefire of 2002 brought the much needed optimism into our lives but who knows what is in store,” he said, while listening to the detailed bi-lateral meetings and track II diplomacy (unknown terms for him) and rhetoric of the two sides.
Thaw between the two sides raised hope in people like Ujagar but uncertainty still prevails. Now he wants to live a “normal” life, a luxury for the people of conflict areas.
Ujagar is not an isolated case but just a generalized version. There are too many conflicts within the main conflict and now it is ripe time to address them if not in totality than at least one by one; to pave the way for peace and stability.
(This write up is just a follow up of the informal interview with Ujagar Singh. During recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir when the citizenship of West Pakistani refugee was being debated in all parties meet, the life of migrants came into lime light. Ujagar Singh’s tale and west Pakistani refugees status was coupled to give present the story in totality.
This is the fourth, last part, of the series about Jammu and Kashmir were thousands of locals perished during last 18 years of insurgency. Official records put death toll around 40,000 but unofficially it is round about 75000 and separatist leaders claim it to be more than one Lakh.
Both India and Pakistan claim Jammu and Kashmir and this tussle has been going on since the independence of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947. Kashmir issue remained unresolved till now even after some serious attempts by both countries.)