Kupwara: 65 km away from the frontier district headquarters Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir; Keran is located very close to the Line of Actual control (LAC). Early in June 2021, Keran, Mandiyan and Kundiyan villages saw scenes of jubilation when they were finally connected to the rest of the world, via mobile connection towers.
“The army helped to install the cellular network,” explains Waqas Ahmad, a local resident, adding, that electricity poles were installed after seven decades last year. An additional source of happiness for the villagers is that the road leading to Keran is being blacktopped. They hope this will help to reverse the shambles the local schools are in. “Our children are not able to score well as teachers don’t prefer to stay here,” says Ahmad, “We hope things will improve now.”
The situation is the area has been grim since 1990, when bloodshed in the valley forced 90 per cent of Keran residents to migrate to the other side of the border. “When
we came back from Kupwara, we found that all our relatives had crossed Kishenganga and reached Pakistan,” recalls Mohammad Akram. “We lost our own people and we have not been able to meet them for three decades, though they live just a few hundred meters away.”
Many residents believe that since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, the pace of development works has increased. “Borders are always hostile, but unexpected shelling creates a fear psychosis here. Amid breathtaking beauty, there is always a shadow of despair,” says WHO?
Now that some of their demands have been met, residents are hopeful that their situation will improve still further. “Border tourism should be promoted here,” say most
residents, who want permission to meet their immediate families at the border. They ask that if Pakistan and India can open Kartarpur like a corridor for Partition survivors, then why not for Keran residents.
The health sector in Keran also needs improvement. “Our hospital has been under construction for the last 11 years,” allege residents, adding, “We have to travel 70 km even for a simple X-ray.” Hilal Khan, a revenue officer, adds that three pregnant ladies died last winter since they were not able to be airlifted to district hospital when the road was closed to due to heavy snowfall.