In an effort to protect 54,000 people in towns and villages near the “world’s most dangerous border,” India’s central government is funding the creation of 372 community bunkers, which hold 40 people, and 4,918 individual bunkers, designed for up to 8 people. The shelters, located in the Rajouri district, are to be made of concrete lined with mud.
Local magistrate Abdul Sattar told RT’s video agency Ruptly that he believes the new “safe accommodation” would keep local people from migrating. “[If] residents migrate from those areas in view of heavy shelling, they can inhabit those community bunkers in safer places,” he said.
However, locals expressed mixed feelings about the project: “The construction of such bunkers increases the safety of the locals because whenever the shelling happens [we can hide inside]. The underground bunkers which have been constructed will still be covered with a two- to three-foot wall of earth as well,” villager Jeet Chowdary told Ruptly. “These bunkers of ours will greatly increase our safety,” he added.
But Muhammad Lateef, a resident of a different village, said that it would be better for the Indian government to relocate civilians from the dangerous disputed territory.
“Pakistan has created problems for us. In this winter, our livestock are dying, they are sick, where would we go? If we go to the [veterinary] hospital, there is no more room. What can we do? The poor will die,” Lateef said. “Instead of this [building bunkers], it would be better if the authorities provided us with some alternate land further away, so that we can feed ourselves and our livestock.”
The conflict in Kashmir began shortly after partition in 1947 and continues to this day. India and Pakistan have fought wars over the disputed territory in 1947, 1965 and 1999. Cross-border fire and skirmishes have killed more than a dozen people since mid-November, and recent figures suggest that 2018 will be one of the bloodiest years in recent memory for the stalemated conflict.