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Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Citizenship Walk along the LOC - Day 5 Wednesday 24/08/11

Photos on flickr photostream (ID: sahaafi)

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Baghsar was my next destination. It was an uncomplicated though steep road with very little human habitation in between. Now into my fourth day of walking, I was feeling fitter and my rucksack was feeling lighter. All I needed to do was pace my walk out every day for about 20 kilometres and I would be able to complete my 800 km walk without much hurdle, or so I thought.

I still remembered the countless number of times I was stopped by the public yesterday and asked for my ID. The people living along the LOC had been brought up on living amidst cross-fire, heavily monitored physical movement, the risk of losing limb or life from land-mines, restricted agricultural space, virtual non-existence of economic opportunity and a lack of basic amenities (If the electricity malfunctioned, it could take a week or 10 days before somebody from the electricity department would come and fix it). The nearest they came to experiencing normal civilisation was by travelling to the tehsil headquarters in Barnala, about 30 kilometres away. Some local traders also ventured out as far as Gujarat in Pakistan to procure goods for the local market. The physical price they were paying for India and Pakistan's conflict was clear enough, the mental stale-mate of society was mind-boggling and difficult to quantify.

Much in the same manner as the previous two days, I had to prematurely break my fast. With no sign of habitation for kilometres on end and the rain descending uninterrupted for the past couple of hours, all I could do was cup my hands and drink rainwater at every makeshift stream I came across.

It wasn't until about eight kilometres before Baghsar that I encountered my first army camp of the day. They questioned me briefly before escorting me towards their main camp at Baghsar. At each and every army camp/post that I came across, I had made it a point of explaining that I had been questioned and cleared previously by their colleagues. I also requested on each occasion that they make a note of my ongoing route and kindly inform subsequent posts that I'm travelling with the purpose of surveying the AJK public.

Similar to previous conversations with army personnel, their boredom on duty was palpable. Most soldiers tend to look forward to their holidays as a means of appeasing their plight. Coming across a stranger like me evoked many questions on their part, they took as much interest and showed as much concern as any average citizen to the plight of the country they were serving.

Much of what happened after this point is narrated in my document entitled, 'The LOC - Raising the people s stake in their homeland' and is the next blog entry on this page.

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