CHANDIGARH: Around 12000 farmers from 220 villages on the Indo-Pakistan border have been complaining ever since the Centre stripped Jammu and Kashmir off its special status. Want to know why?
These farmers, who have close to 21000 acres across the fence in six districts of Punjab, are now only allowed to head to their fields that are across the barbed wires at 9 AM instead of 7 AM like earlier. This follows a new direction issued by the Border Security Force.
Speaking to Express, vice president of the Punjab Border Kishan Welfare Society Surjit Singh Bhura said, "Till recently, the BSF used to open the border gates at 7 AM and keep it open till 5 PM and allow the farmers to cultivate their fields in the ongoing paddy season. However, due to the recent developments in the valley, the timings are reduced by three hours. The gates open at 9 AM and shut at 4 PM instead of 5. Also, the farmers are not allowed near the border."
Bhura said this has meant that they "hardly have any time to work in the fields".
"We also have to work continuously without any break. If we even sit down to have our lunch, the security forces ask us to leave. Spraying the pesticides too has to be done in the afternoons as against mornings or evenings, because we are left with n other option," he said.
The atmosphere remains tense in these villages along the international border.
The aftermath of 2016 surgical strikes is fresh in the minds of the villagers, who feel they should be prepared for the worst as the authorities might ask them to evacuate at any moment.
Bhuara said that he was constructing his house in Khemkaran village but the locals told him to stop due to the tension prevailing between both India and Pakistan.
"There is also panic among the residents of border villages as the movement of BSF has increased in the border villages,’’ says Harjinder Singh of Sakatra village.
A senior BSF official explained the forces have been on high alert ever since the changes in J&K.
But try telling that to the farmers of Fazilka, Ferozepur, Tarantarn, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts who have lands across the fence. Their worry is more immediate. They say that they are suffering huge losses and cannot sustain themselves anymore.
The government had erected the fence long ago to prevent arms smuggling and the infiltration of armed intruders from Pakistan. The fence, which is not directly on the border, cuts through Indian Territory across these farmers’ fields. And therein lies the reason for their angst...