M A I N   N E W S

Displaced by delayed Detonation
These villagers are visitors in their own homes
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

The Punjabi resilience is at its best on the riverbed where families of Sekhewal village are spending their days. Earthen stoves have been set up to cook food for themselves; branches of trees are being used as fuel. Moorings have been fixed for the cattle; children are seen doing their homework on the riverbed only. So much so that a village resident, Vimla has set up a small shop selling knick-knacks.

Ludhiana, December 4
While 1,500 villagers evacuated for detonating scrap bombs at the Matterwara forest would remember it for the inconvenience and discomfort it caused, a 35-year-old Lakhwinder Kaur and her family would curse the process for they lost their seven-month-old girl, leaving all of them scarred for life.

The girl of Sekhewal village died of pneumonia a fortnight ago after getting exposed to cold winds on the bed of the Sutlej, where her family like many others have been spending their days under the sky, after their village was vacated for detonating the bombs.

As the helpless mother is trying to come to terms with reality, her six-year-old son, Honey, has not been able to overcome the trauma. The innocent boy, who is too young to decipher the phenomenon of death, has started getting his hair tied into braids after his sister’s death.

‘‘He insists on getting his hair styled like a girl as he misses his sister,” says Lakhwinder Kaur. ‘‘Gudiya rabb kol chali gayi,’’ (My sister has gone to the God), says Honey as he innocently points towards the sky adding he would change his hairstyle, when she returns.

Theirs is just one heart-rending tale. Besides, there are scores of other villagers, who have stories of inconvenient discomfort to narrate. They are forced to spend their days on the riverbed, braving chilly winds as the mercury is dipping with every passing day, away from the comforts of their cozy homes.

‘‘The weather is so cold that all our children have congestion in their chests.

Even our cattle have fallen sick. One has to stay here for an hour to realise what we are going through day after day,’’ said Pyaari, a sexagenarian of Sekhewal village.

The poor villagers are asked to leave their houses every morning, with their paraphernalia, children and cattle. They somehow spend their day on the cots besides the river and share their space with cattle. Preparing a cup of tea is a tedious job as the fast winds make it difficult for the earthen stoves to work effectively. ‘‘It is a tough life. We feel people do not have to undergo such hardships even in a jail,’’ said Paramjit Kaur. She added they just prayed to god that it wouldn’t rain till the detonation last. ‘‘We have to pull our children out of beds every morning. They plead for mercy and want to sleep more. But we have to send them to school at 6 a.m. although it opens at 9 a.m. We are forced to do it as we wont be allowed to move towards the school side after that, ’’ said Surjit Kaur, another elderly woman.





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