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DATE=9/7/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KASHMIR REFUGEES NUMBER=5-44205 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Earlier this year tens of thousands of people who live in mountain villages in Indian Kashmir fled their region after armed infiltrators from Pakistan occupied strategic peaks overlooking their fields and their homes. For eleven weeks, from May until the end of July, the Indian army and the guerrilla infiltrators fought fierce battles along the mountain ridges of Kashmir. The conflict brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war until Pakistan agreed to work to withdraw the infiltrators. Now more than a month after the conflict ended many who fled their homes have yet to return and some say they will not go back anytime soon. Correspondent Jim Teeple recently visited some of the refugees from Kashmir and has filed this report. // Act of boy singing.establish, and fade under text // Text: A young boy sings an old love song in the Shina language - a language almost no one speaks outside the high mountain villages of Kashmir. The boy is a long way from his home in the village of Pandras which sits just 12 kilometers from the Line of Control which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The boy and his father, Gulum Ahmed, fled Pandras in late May after shells began falling all around them as they were getting ready to plant their crop of barley. Ever since then they have lived 100 kilometers to the south, off a dusty road in a temporary settlement near the military garrison town of Sonamarg. Now four months after he fled his home and his fields, Gulum Ahmed is packing up to return. He is unsure what awaits his son and him or whether he will even be able to return to his home. Indian Army troops occupied his sturdy stone house built into the steep mountains which surround Pandras. Unlike refugees from other conflicts, the Pandras villagers never saw a United Nations refugee worker or a Red Cross dispensary. The Pandras villagers were internally displaced and were left to the care of the Indian government - a government the villagers say was only concerned with fighting a war and regaining lost territory. Gulum Ahmed says promises of government aid never materialized, and he and his neighbors had to rely on charity from the villagers in Sonamarg. // ACT/W TRANSLATION // He says we were looked after well by the villagers nearby, these nearby people instead of the government. Gulum Ahmed says he has received assurances from the district commissioner in Pandras that his house is safe and that he will be given enough food to make it through the coming winter, when temperatures can fall to minus 30 degrees Celsius. The villagers left their homes in May just as they were getting ready to plant their winter crops. // OPT // Of the 35 families who fled Pandras in May more than half are now returning home, but several say they are staying put for the time being. Seventy- year-old Nur Mohammed says his house was destroyed during the conflict and all of his possessions are now gone. He says he'll stay in Sonamarg because at least there he can find work as a laborer and be able to feed his family. Nur Mohammed says he is also tired of hearing about all of the fundraisers being staged to help out families of soldiers who died or who were wounded in the Kashmir conflict. He says something should also be done to help those who were displaced by the fighting. // ACT W/TRANSLATION // He says no doubt the soldiers fought for the country. The people of India collected money for them, but we also suffered and they did not bother for us. At least we should get ten percent of that money because our houses and all of our things were destroyed. Indian officials defend their treatment of the refugees saying their main concern was to save lives. Gurbachon Jagat, chief of police for India's Jammu and Kashmir State, says most of those who fled their homes in northern Kashmir have returned. The rest, he predicts, will be back before the first snow falls next month. // JAGAT ACT // The government did set up camps for them, and arrangements were made to give them rations on a larger scale than similar situations before. As far their current status is concerned, most of them who come from Dras, Pandras and other villages, they have gone back home. // END ACT // Many of the Pandras villagers disagree, saying the Indian government could and should have done more to make their lives easier. Still those who are returning say it's time to get on with their lives even though the next few months could be worse than their lives in Sonamarg. The Pandras villagers proudly say they come from the second coldest place on earth after Siberia. They say they were not prepared for the war that forced them from their homes but they survived. Now they say they hope they survive the coming winter. (Signed) NEB/JLT/BK/KL 07-Sep-1999 10:40 AM EDT (07-Sep-1999 1440 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .