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Compensation eludes Uri’s survivors

J&K High Court asks Govt. to file its response on ex gratia to those affected by shelling, landmines

Over 70 victims of cross-border shelling and landmines from Kashmir’s Uri tehsil, including those who lost limbs, have fought for compensation for decades. Now, the Government’s move to create two categories of victims and set a cut-off date for ex gratia payment has finally come under the Jammu & Kashmir High Court’s scanner.

Hearing the petition, the J&K High Court Bench, comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Mohal Lal, admitted the case on the ground that “there is no rational basis for classifying the victims in two classes and fixing 24.08.2016 as the cut off date for such a classification”.

The court, on November 16, directed the Government to file its response within a period of six weeks, and has set the next hearing for February 14, 2022.

“Our Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition is a legal battle to pay equal and uniform compensation of ₹10 lakh [each] to all the victims affected by shelling and landmine blasts, without adhering to any cut-off date,” Syed Musaib, an advocate, told The Hindu.

Also read | Combing operation continuing near LoC in Kashmir’s Uri

According to the fresh guidelines framed by the Government, an amount of ₹3 lakh would be given for each death or permanent incapacitation to the affected family under a scheme in cases that occurred before August 24, 2016, and ₹5 lakh in each case after the cut-off date.

“The compensation amount even at ₹5 lakh is very nominal. It’s very low for the rehabilitation of permanently disabled victims,” Mr. Musaib said.

According to a report by the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), there are victims who have been demanding compensation for over two decades now.

Mohmammad Shafi, a resident of Churanda village, lost his left foot in a landmine blast 20 years ago while working as a porter near the Army’s ‘TIKA’ post. However, he is yet to get any compensation.

Small sums

“Recent artificial limb was provided by the Army to Shafi and [he] is just receiving financial assistance of ₹1000 from the Social Welfare Department, which is not enough,” the HRLN report pointed out.

Mohammad Isaq, a resident of Charunda village in Uri, had to have his right leg amputated after he accidentally stepped on a landmine on June 5, 2013 while working as a porter with the Army at the Renuka Post. “Initially, he was provided with a one-month salary but nothing later. Only ₹2000-3000 was provided for the medical treatment but the rest of the cost was borne by the family,” the report said.

Mr. Shafi and Mr. Isaq belong to villages near the Line of Control (LoC) beyond the fence set up by the Army to create a special zone till ‘Zero Point’. The access gates of such villages, like Churanda village, open at 7 a.m and close by 5.30 p.m. Apart from Charunda, Shahoor and Hajipeer valso fall behind the Army’s fencing line, with entry and exit gates.

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