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|May 26, 1999||
'The reality of the situation has not percolated to these very hungry men, women and children'
Rediff On The NeT Senior Feature Writer Chindu Sreedharan was among the hundreds asked to vacate Kargil after the air strikes began Wednesday morning. In a static-filled telephone conversation from Minji, 13 km from Kargil, Sreedharan, one of the few journalists still in the area, described the situation:
We were asked to move out of Kargil this morning. But for some helicopters flying overhead, no discernible activity was visible in the skies. Local residents did not know about the air strikes. It was we who informed them of the Indian Air Force operation.
The shelling is not new for them. It has been going on for days. Today was no different. Today was just like any other day for them.
I heard a shell had hit an army post near the ammunition dump, which was hit earlier. It is not known if there are any casualties. The Military Engineering Service area too was hit. I could see the smoke from where I was, but no details are available. The First Division officers had promised a press briefing this morning, but they are in conference now.
As I left for Minji, the shops in Kargil had downed their shutters. I could see people huddled around, undecided about what to do. The district administration had not made any arrangement for transport; we had to make our own way.
Minji is one of the villages where people living in Drass, Kargil and Southern Block were moved after the shelling began. It is a very small village and looks like a typical refugee camp. After the Kargil-Srinagar road was shut down, these people have not received any supplies. They have no kerosene, no oil, no vegetables. All they have received is five kilos of rice per person.
Refugees say that supply trucks have not arrived since November. However, the district administration says it has supplied enough flour and rice to the refugees, many of who say they exist on barley and salt tea.
About 60 people live in each of the small houses in this village. I intend to spend the night in the car I hired in Srinagar. There are about 3,000 people in Minji, and many more in the villages around.
The reality of the situation has not percolated to these very hungry men, women and children. Some of them have been here for 20 days. It happens to them every year when the shelling begins.
There is no official state of emergency, only an unofficial one.
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