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Shattered lives: Return to Bara

September 05, 2013

PEACE, it is claimed, has been restored to Bara tehsil and several important roads were reopened by the political administration over the past few weeks. How elusive normalcy remains, though, is evident from the scale of destruction. Having fled the area for fear of both militants and the efforts to quell them, hundreds of residents were desirous of returning to reclaim their lives and livelihoods. But those who have done so are witness to the aftermath of wholesale destruction: the majority of houses are badly damaged if not completely destroyed, infrastructure such as bridges and electricity pylons have been ripped out and roads are dilapidated. Markets have been flattened and a college has been blown up. The persons internally displaced from this area face an uphill climb.

Is any cohesive plan in place to rehabilitate the people and restore the infrastructure? From the example of Bara and other areas where IDPs have returned, it would appear not. This is, of course, the other half of the challenge the state faces in restoring normalcy to the country’s militancy-hit northwest — and here, too, we are seeing far from enough work. Yet equally worrying is the fear factor: the state may be technically in charge of cleared areas, but dread of the militants and their capricious decrees — such as that all men sport beards or that no phone be allowed a musical ring tone — remains. A college teacher told this newspaper that though people wanted to return to their homes, they were scared of reprisals by militants and preferred to not take women and children with them. The government will have to address the full spectrum of anxieties before people can piece together their lives shattered by a conflict that was not of their engineering.