Jorafarm (J&K): They have lost their homes and belongings in cross-border firing and shelling, but not their faith in parliamentary democracy and they still hope for a peaceful and better future.
For the 400-odd voters of Jorafarm, the last village on the Indian side of the International Border with Pakistan, the party of choice may vary but their expectations from the new government are same – lasting peace and development.
The village, just 400 metres from the border fence, is part of the Jammu parliamentary constituency where polling was held in the first of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls, Thursday.
It was a special day for the villagers, young and old alike, as it rekindled their hope. Early in the morning, they set out in horse-carts to reach the polling booth, set up in nearby Jajwal village, about one-and-a-half kilometres away.
“We voted for peace and development… Peace is imperative because every time Pakistan targets forward posts and villages, we bear the brunt,” 35-year-old Mohammad Shafi told this agency.
“Look at the condition of our village… It lacks basic facilities such as drinking water supply and proper road. We suffer immensely due to Pakistani shelling,” Shafi, who was returning from the polling station along with his minor son after casting his vote, added.
More than 100 families reside in this village, about 35 km from Jammu. In 2018, most ‘kullas’ (mud houses) were burnt due to Pakistani shelling twice – in January and May. A large number of buffaloes and horses were also killed.
At least six people were injured and more than 30 mud houses were destroyed in another incident of cross-border firing in September, 2017. Prior to that in 2014, Mohammad Akram and his two-year-old son, residents of the village were killed in Pakistani shelling.
The village, popularly known as the ‘hamlet of Gujjar milkmen’, has witnessed peace in the past few months, but fear of cross-border shelling and firing pervades.
After most houses were damaged last year, ‘we painstakingly rebuild our homes with a hope that peace will prevail’, is what 48-year-old Shah Wali, a father of eight children including three girls, pointed out.
Wali has replaced his damaged ‘kulla’ with a single-storey concrete house after the government provided him Rs 1.30 lakh as compensation.
“We are optimistic and want our government to ensure that we do not suffer anymore and there will be lasting peace on the borders,” he said as he, along with his wife and two children, set out for the polling station.
A number of underground bunkers have been constructed by the government in the village, but some residents say ‘we are not sure if these can provide us protection’. These bunkers also lack amenities such as toilets, they said.
The presiding officer at the Jajwal polling station, Anurudh Kumar Bhat, said that of the 742 voters, 303, including 123 women, have cast their franchise till noon. “The poling is on peacefully,” he informed as some CRPF and policemen stood guard.
Incumbent MP Jugal Kishore of the BJP is seeking re-election from the constituency, which has 24 candidates in fray. Besides Kishore, the other major contenders are Raman Bhalla of the Congress, Choudhary Lal Singh of the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan and National Panthers Party patron Bhim Singh.