Ahead of the surgical strike, the Punjab government on the orders of the Union Home Ministry evacuated all villages upto 10km of radius of the border. But when those 450 people returned on Friday morning, the threat from border was accompanied by their anxiety for their crop, homes and animals.
“Most people left last evening after the warning. I came back this morning to feed my animals and water the fields. In ten days, my paddy will ripen and it will be time to harvest it, but everything is up in the air now,” said Gurwinder. The BSF did not open the black gate on the razor wire fence this morning to allow farmers to access their fields between the fence and Zero Line. Of the nine acres owned by Gurwinder’s family, six lie beyond the fence. There is no fence separating his land from that of Pakistani farmers on the other side.
Gurwinder recalled that a similar evacuation took place during the Kargil war, Army laid mines in the area and villagers could not return to the fields for over a year.
“Maybe the government will pay some compensation,” said Gurwinder in a conversation with The Indian Express.
On Thursday, in the midst of the evacuation, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal asked farmers not to panic, and not to harvest before the crop had ripened.
Another villager, Sukhdev Singh, talking about the variety of rice said, “This village is famous for Basmati 1121 and Parmal (two rice varieties). The Parmal has ripened, but we can cut it only if there is peace and calm. Some people have to cut in five days, some in ten.”
With the gates to the fields closed and no work to do, men who had returned sat in the village square next to the gurdwara.
“Veley baithein hain (We are sitting jobless),” said a villager.
Raghubir Singh, 87, said he was among the few who had not left the village. “It’s our village, all our possessions are here — our crops, our animals. Can’t leave it all and go away. I can tell you there will be no trouble,” he said.
On instructions from the top leadership of the ruling Akali Dal, ministers and MLAs visited border villages all morning, reassuring people that “everything would be taken care of”.
“Government is ready to address every problem,” said Animal Husbandry Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, whose constituency, Attari, is particularly affected.