Arnia town is empty as most of its population has migrated

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ARNIA (JAMMU): The bustling Arnia border town and nearly 100 border hamlets along the India-Pakistan border now wear an empty look, with over 76,000 villagers abandoning their homes to escape heavy shelling by Pakistani troops.Soonam Kundal is busy gathering her belongings at her home in Keso village, a few kilometers from the border.The 19-year-old is alone at home. On Tuesday evening, her father was curing a newly built boundary wall when a mortar shell landed in the compound of their house, injuring him, her mother and brother.

“My family has been shifted to government medical college hospital in Jammu,” says Kundal, who escaped unhurt as she was inside. She will be shifting to her aunt’s home.Like Kundal, most of the people forced out of their homes in border villages of Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts have chosen to live with relatives. A few have opted for relief camps.

A village of 1,500, Keso is all but abandoned. Women and children have moved to relief camps, men join them at sunset.Kundal’s aunt Ruby is critical of the government for leaving people to fend for themselves. “We have pleaded with politicians to provide us land at safer locations,” she says.Fear dominates as Pakistani soldiers have targeted villages and BSF posts all along the 198km-long border. In the last one week, four people have died and 25 injured in Ramgarh alone.The life in the border belt along the International Border (IB) has come to a standstill as farming, schooling, cattle rearing and everything else on which border dwellers survive have come to a halt due to shelling episodes.
“Arnia town is empty as most of its population has migrated. They have shifted either to their relatives or to shelter camps set up by the government”, Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Jammu, Arun Manhas, told PTI.

Mahnas, who is leading rescue and relief operation along with civilian and police officials, said people in over 90 villages in Arnia and R S Pura sectors have either been evacuated by the police force in bullet proof vehicles or have migrated themselves.Over 76,000 people have migrated from border areas in wake of heavy shelling and firing from last several days, Manhas said adding several camps have been setup to house border migrants.

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