By Damini Singh
Border conflicts have plagued mankind for thousands of years, ever since the first civilisations evolved. The division of land is based on factors more complex than simply the desired topography or square miles, these factors are but one point of contention. Culture, tradition, religion and ethnicity often tend to become issues, the primary example of a long-standing skirmish being that of Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and the subsequent Israel-Palestine conflict. Not far from this war-ridden area is the Indo-Pak border, a long line that separates two countries that have been at loggerheads with each other ever since their birth, for more than 60 years.
The foundation of a prolonged feud
The Partition of India in 1947 led to the development of immense bad blood between both the citizens and the governments of the two riot-ridden countries. There was utter pandemonium, with the Hindus rushing towards India and the Muslims leaving for Pakistan. There were killings, there were immigrants—it was a huge weight on both the countries, which were still at a fledgeling stage with first-time governments.
This friction worsened with the attempted invasion of Kashmir by the Pakistani military, which was then an independent state, in the process of joining India. This led to a still unresolved conflict and a war. This conflict once spread throughout the nations, ended up being concentrated at the borders, with firings, abductions and capture of civilians who would stray to the other side. It was perilous to live at the border since attacks on people were commonplace and occurred frequently.
The conditions at the border in 1971
India went to war with Pakistan, which was then made up of East Pakistan, located to the east of Bengal, and West Pakistan (modern-day Pakistan), in 1971. Due to the misrule and mistreatment of the East Pakistan citizens at the hands of West Pakistan, it was a common occurrence for immigrants from East Pakistan to illegally smuggle themselves into India from areas other than the open borders.
The conditions were truly horrendous during the war, especially in the highly affected zones along the border. Diseases ran rampant due to a lack of shelter and sanitation for the immigrants and the Indian military was engaged with both the Pakistani military as well as the refugees who had to be rehabilitated and relocated. The human-count of the already densely populated regions in Bengal was increasing, bringing socio-economic instability and added burdens for the government. On the Western front, the army was engaged with its Pakistani counterparts, and other than the heightened problem of illegal entry into the country, the conditions were pretty much the same—grim and bleak.
Modern-day state of affairs
In recent years, the conditions of the people living in the border areas, especially in Kashmir, are reported to be terrible, one account going so far as to describe the said conditions to be “worse than 1971.” Cross-border hostility had reached its peak in the past few years; however, it has waned for the time being. Civilian villages and towns were often caught in the crossfire between the two countries, all along the border.
These ceasefire violations have caused immense casualties on both sides, both civilian as well as military. People living on the border live with a sword hanging on their necks, as the attacks are imminent. These conditions are seemingly worse tenfold, in Kashmir and in areas near PoK. Cross-fires, attacks from intruders and abductions are common occurrences. It is a terrifying ordeal that the residents of these areas go through.
Other than these conspicuous attacks, there are many attempts to terrorise the locals. There are innumerable reports of villagers accidentally crossing the border and reaching the foreign land, then being arrested for unlawful entry and getting incarcerated. This is an occurrence all along the border, from Kashmir to Gujarat and sometimes, even on the sea, when fishermen, unable to control their boats, reach foreign shores.
It is evident that the violation of border armistices is a result of the enmity between two countries, whether it is due to a huge issue or a trivial one. However, the safety of the citizens lies in the hands of both the government and the military. Evacuating war-prone areas is not a solution, whatever part of land people occupy must be made safe to live on. Both the Indian and Pakistani militaries have a huge role to play in ensuring the well-being of these places and its occupants.
While the rest of the country lives and breathes in peace, these people have to live in constant vigilance and fear. Sympathy and empathy have played truant; it is high time that the governments start taking action. Otherwise, the future of both the innumerable villages and its residents is at stake, with nothing to be won, and everything to be lost.