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At Kashmir’s LoC, people prefer underground bunkers instead of big houses

Uri:  Last time, 60-year-old Ghulam Muhammad Hajam of Thajal thought of building a new house was in September 2019.  When he was about to start the construction, the area witnessed intense cross border shelling.

Panicky, Hajam shelved his plan and is waiting for government’s help to build an underground bunker to save his family from shelling.

Hajam is not an isolated case. This is almost a story of every household in Thajal, a hamlet barely four kilometers away from Uri town.

People living in the village are reluctant to build new or renovate old houses given the cross border firing and shelling.

 “Many houses have suffered damages in the shelling. People are reluctant to build new houses,” Hajam said.

Thajal village lies in the vicinity of Hajipeer, which has witnessed cross border shelling multiple times for the last two years.

On June 12, a woman was killed after she was hit by splinters when a shell landed close to her house.

Nearly a dozen houses in the village have suffered damage in the shelling. However, none of them have been repaired so far.

Barely a kilometer away, Tilawadi village has a similar story. Scores of houses have suffered damages in the shelling.  Instead of building new houses, the villagers prefer Dhoka, a shelter made of mud with a thatched roof.

 “There was an intense shelling in 2018 and my house suffered damages. The government did not give me any compensation.  I had no money to repair the house,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a government employee.

Block Development Council (BDC), Uri, Vice-chairman Haji Mohammad Haneef said people of the two villages are living on the edge given the frequent shelling from across the border.

“Affected families have not been compensated for the damages. People have been eagerly waiting for compensation. Due to fear of shelling, people do not want to build new houses,” he said.