1000 villages evacuated along Punjab border

It's like war again as villagers load everything they can carry onto tractor trolleys and move to shelters in schools.

Published: 30th September 2016 12:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2016 12:36 AM   |  A+A-

India_Pak_surgical_strike_vacate_AFP

India_Pak_surgical_strike_vacate_AFP

Express News Service

CHANDIGARH: The sudden escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan has triggered the evacuation of 1000 villages along the international border in six districts of Punjab, either fully or partially. Reports said thousands of people were on the move.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on the phone in the morning and requested him to immediately start evacuation within 10 km of the border.
Badal called an emergency meeting with the chief secretary and the director-general of police and issued orders to deputy commissioners (DCs) and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) to oversee the evacuation in the border districts of Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.
The Beating the Retreat ceremony held every day at the Attari-Wagah border was called off Thursday and Lt Gen Surinder Singh, the GoC-in-C of the Western Command, visited forward locations in Gurdaspur and Amritsar. The state government of Punjab has cancelled holidays for its employees till further orders.
People in Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts have been told not to switch on their lights or use any electronic gadgets at night. Sources said it was likely the Punjab State Power Corporation would cut electricity to border villages Thursday night.
Sources said that in Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts alone around 100 villages have been evacuated in Dorangla, Dera Baba Nanak, Behrampur, Narot Jaimal Singh and Bamial blocks. There was heavy rush at petrol pumps in the six border districts.
Schools, colleges and community centres have been turned into camps for people to stay until the tensions ease. Owners of marriage place and dharamshalas have been asked to keep their premises vacant to set up relief camps.
The health department has been asked to stock medical supplies and the revenue department has been asked to arrange food at these shelters.
Villagers loaded their belongings onto tractor trolleys and started moving out. Seventy-five-year-old Phuman Singh of Mohar Sohna village in Fazilka said he left his cattle behind and much else. "For us it's like war," said the villager who remembered living through two wars.
Another villager Suba Singh recalled that they had had to similarly vacate their villages during the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Kuldeep Singh of Naushehra Dhalla said the villagers were initially told that only women, children and the elderly would have to move, but then the others were told to go too.
As the day wore on Thursday, Punjab Police personel went from village to village falling in a 10 km belt along the border, telling residents to move. Public announcements could be heard from the gurdwaras.
"It is good that India has struck back at Pakistan. But as always we people on the border suffer the maximum. We lose our lands and we are not given compensation for years by the government,’’ complained Vikram Singh of Dostur village.

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