AMRITSAR: “We can call this India and that Pakistan but the river doesn’t obey that and it flows where it feels like,” said a resident of Dharamkot Patan, a village at the Indo-Pak border.
The International border gets breached by the river Raavi’s meandering course, creating areas which belong to Indian Territory but are landlocked by the international border with Pakistan. Due to the border activities, villagers have abandoned these areas and cross the river using the floating bridge, whose piers sand on sand bags, but only during the non-monsoon months. During the monsoon men like Kkhyam Singh, row wooden boats across the river to ferry men, farm equipments and sacks across the muddy waters.
“Being a river bank the land is very fertile, but due to the border there is no inhabitation, so we carry men and even tractors on our boats many times in a day to ensure that the land is not wasted,” said one of the oar men, of the motor less boats, who push against the strong water current using long bamboos.
Villages along the border, near Dera Baba Nanak town, 45 kms from here, have historical monuments in each street and house, as one of the villagers puts it, but little tourism. From Gurudwara Chola Sahib, where Guru Nanak’s last worn clothes have been preserved and displayed to Takht-i-Akbari, where 13-year-old Akbar was coroneted in 1556 AD and an ancient Shiva temple who’s Shiv Ling is said to be increasing with time.
Along there a spot from where pilgrims can see Kartarpur, the birth place of the first Sikh guru, now in Pakistan. At the little tourist spot, pilgrims look beyond the fences and army posts and pay their respects at the Gurudwara, whose white structure stands in the midst of green fields. “I never thought of going to Pakistan but I always wanted to see Kartarpur Sahib, I wish it were easier to just walk across,” said a lady who had come from a nearby village.
For many decades the residents of villages along the border have lived their lives along the barbed wire, under the sight of binoculars, aware of their unique geo-political position. The farmers, many of whom have never travelled beyond Amritsar or Jalandhar, say that as long as the border is peaceful so is their life. When asked if some has ever walked across the border by mistake Gurbaksh Singh, of village Ganita ke Baith, smiled back casually and said, “Yes, but they get caught and after a year or two they return back.”