Successive regimes neglect Hill Kaka on all fronts; area lacks even basic facilities
CH RASHID AZAM INQLABI
In twin districts of Poonch-Rajouri, there are lush green meadows and coniferous forests that display a rich wealth of flora and fauna. From time immemorial hill folks, pilgrims and Mughals trekked over its hills to Kashmir. Rajouri – Poonch is separated from Kashmir valley by the Pir Panjal range, whose highest peak Tatakuti standing at 15560 feet, falls in Poonch district and is visible even from across border on a clear day. This is still a virgin peak challenging adventurers with crystal clear water, alpine lakes viz Nandansar, Sukhsar, Neelsar, Katoirasar, Kaldachnisar and other thirteen lakes are surrounded by glaciers and snow-capped peaks. The historical waterfalls, Noori Chammb and Dera Ki Gali attract visitors. People from various parts of Jammu and outside UT, have conducted innumerable trekking expeditions in the upper reach of Poonch, due to which Rajouri and Poonch have now been projected on the tourism map of India. In the local Gojri/ phari dialect, the passes, alpine lakes, and meadows are called Gallis, Sars and Margs or Dhoks respectively. Some of the common Dhoks in Poonch are Girjan, Panjtari, Isanwali, Nainsukh, Dharamarg, Pirmarg and Sarimastan etc.
In Poonch, Hill Kaka is a remote hamlet located on the southern side of Pir Panjal ranges in the lapse of Tatakuti peak and it takes 10-11 hours to reach this village from nearest road head. Hill Kaka remained in news in early 2000 as it was infested with terrorism. In a unique operation, the locals fought alongside the Army to flush out terrorists from this village and remain in national and international news. In 2003, army along with the help of locals started the historic Operation ‘Sarp-Vinash’. The senior officers of the army recognized the role of locals in bringing peace to area. The short movie on operation of Hill Kaka was also released in collaboration with the army. The then Defence Minister and Army General appreciated the role of the people of Hill Kaka in bringing peace to the area. Many local people lost their lives in the operation along with the army. Hill kaka is the only village in Jammu & Kashmir where women VDC members took part in the operation against the terrorists. The martyred of Hill Kaka will be remembered for their sacrifice. The inhabitant of Hill kaka had shared some of their grievances on telephone with me virtually. A young boy became emotional while telling some incidents in which people have to carry a pregnant woman on a cot (charpai) for more than 40 Km to reach Surankote hospital. The village is cut-off from the rest of the area as it has no road connectivity and transport facility and lacks electricity, potable water and Anganwadi activities. It takes a person to reach Surankote at least one day on foot from Hill Kaka. The medical facility and health care were nowhere in the sight, they said. Lack of medical facility, education facilities and no road connectivity till date have made lives of people difficult. The people have to cross Hill Kaka river on foot more than four times to reach Surankote. Hill kaka is part of Mora Panchayat which is about 40 Km from Hill kaka due to which people cannot get benefits of various Government schemes. Hill Kaka was also provided facility of a school building and a Government School also opened here. A room was constructed but unfortunately, UT authorities took no real interest to monitor the school. The teachers were posted there but they are nowhere to be seen. The children are eager to study but problem is who would teach them. The Education Department of UT Jammu (J&K) has to take the final call, if they do want that these children of poor too would be hopping, skipping, and jumping gleefully.
The medical aid center exists in papers but medical staff fails to report for duties in Hill Kaka due to which people suffered, even for first aid people have to come to Surankote.
Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In paradise, there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted foot trek. Hill Kaka is a testimony to the fact. It was a hell zone till 2004 but now the situation improves to some extent but requires more attention from the government. The people do ask here that the administrators are keen to make promises, but we have yet to see even one completed till now, on development, education for our children, and health of the people staying here but where is the deliverance? Nowhere to be seen is the situation as of now and mind you this was the place from where started the downslides and evaporation of terrorism from 2003 onwards in this region! These people need a better deal! Healing touch from the Government. Definitely yes they do! Lack of education is one of the main causes of poverty in this remote area of Hill Kaka. Not every person without a formal or non-formal education lives in abject poverty, but several researches have proved that most of those living in extreme poverty do lack basic education. The families living below the poverty line (BPL) most likely keep their children out of school, which means that their future generation will also have a greater chance of living in poverty. Technical and formal education can open the doors for jobs, resources, and skills which in turn lead to poverty eradication.
The Government of India extended the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, after august 2019, a progressive piece of legislation that ensures the land tenure, food security, and livelihood of traditional forest dwellers, the majority of communities like that of the Gujjar and Bakerwals have actually been treated more harshly than they ever had been before. Even community right is not best ousted to the resident of Hill kaka. Not only has the rollout of the FRA not provided the nomadic communities with the Act’s promised benefits, but its extension to J&K has actually made life more difficult for them because
The Forest Department appears to feel that the legislation challenges its authority. The local residents were mostly illiterate and poor. They looked like a primitive tribal group but were true patriots. Dilpizer Ahmed Kalise of Hill Kaka, Haji Mohd Qassim, Wazir Mohhamed, Mohd Rashid, Ab Haq, Khadam Hussain told the story that in 2003, they fought with terrorists even with sticks and rods and after the formation of VDC helped the army in clearing the area from terrorists but govt is not serious in redressing their grievances, they are worst sufferers.
In 2018, General Officer Commanding White Knight Corps Lt Gen Paramjit Singh Sangha visited the Hill Kaka and enquired about the problems of locals. He as a young company commander in Hill kaka area had participated in counter-insurgency operations in 2003. During the visit, the villagers shared some of their grievances. Army approached civil administration and Advisor to the Governor of J&K to have a passionate look at the problems being faced by the locals. As a result of the continued follow-up actions, most of the issues of the locals have been addressed to some extent. The foremost problem of road connectivity was addressed with the commencement of the project for the construction of 14 Km road from Bafliaz to Hill Kaka. The project is halfway through with about only 7 Km of road constructed but which is not in good condition. This will open avenues for overall development and pave the way for the eradication of grass root level problems being faced by the resident of Hill Kaka. LG Manoj Sinha who is trying his best for redressing problems of common people is requested to pay special attention to the problems of residents of Hill kaka. Some of the problems that require immediate attention are as under.
- Expedite work of Bafliaz to Hill Kaka road on a war footing.
- Bifurcation of Hill Kaka from Mora Panchayat
- Posting staff in Hill Kaka medical center.
- Providing admission to children of Hill Kaka in Gujjar hostel, KGBV, Nvidia vedila
- Opening of fair price shop by food department at Hill Kaka particularly during summer.
- Providing compensation to residents of Hill Kaka, which Government of India had promised during operation ‘Sarp-Vinash’ carried out by Army.
- Opening of Anganwari center, school building at Hill Kaka
- Including deserving person in list of BPL.
- MANREGA budget for Hill Kaka
- Providing drinking water and electric facility
- Solar energy.
LG Manoj Sinha is requested to take cognizance of Hill Kaka and also spare time to visit Hill Kaka personally so that patriot people of Hill Kaka can feel that LG’s administration has special care for them. Union Home Minister and Defence Minister are also requested to issue the direction to the concerned for providing all facilities to people of Hill Kaka so that they may not feel left-out or deprived.
(The author is a retired KAS officer).