Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Walk Down the Death Hill

05 July 2013: As we left our hotel a little later than usual : at 8.30 am, and we went to the local administrative office. One or two officials were beginning to come at about 9.00 am. We took some information from them about a relief camp in Dhapa and in Jimighat which functions as a transit relief camp. We decided to go to these places as they were next to each other: Dhapa camp along the road side, after which there is no road connection (as it has been cut off) and Jimighat down below the hill. We crossed Dhapa after about 50 minutes of drive on a bad damaged road, and went further for about a kilometer, beyond which we could not proceed. We decided to walk. Initially, the road wasn’t bad. As we began to walk down, we met two village travelers walking up. I stopped them and ask where they were heading to, where are they coming from and how long is the distance. One of them stopped to answer: We have been walking well beyond Martoli (closer to Indo-China border) for the last five days, and we shall reach Munsiyari today. There is no food in the hills, and so we have been walking, going past one transit camp after another so that we can get some work, live in a relative’s home, and have some food. They said that their families are in the ITBP camps and may be shifted by the army once the weather gets better. I told these men to wait for us at Dhapa camp so that we can give them a lift to Munsiyari when we return.

We then walked down towards Jimighat. It was a steep, almost 80 deg slope down hill. We were holding on to few roots and rocks in several places as the path was wet and slippery. It was like learning to walk like a little kid in all fours! The walk down the hill alone took full 40 minutes. It was a very tall mountain indeed! When we reached there we saw a kind of a little tent which the men there (who were going around smoking and looked drunk) said, “This is the relief camp!” When we introduced ourselves they brought a banner and hanged on it, and they were happy to get photographed. I walked and saw that it is just a single room structure with lots of holes, filthy, and dark. They were cooking food for lunch. I realized soon that these men were smoking hash, and were blowing it upon your nose! We also found a large notice on one side of it : “Hotel School mein hai” (which means, “The hotel has been shifted to the school !” So, where is the school? The school does not function for want of students. Due to repeated disasters and social issues most children are staying in Munsiyari town for studies. (This is an information that we could empirically verify, although people said that it is true that many families in upper hills keep their children in smaller towns.) There was a little bridge that connects the Milam sector with the main area next to this camp. People coming from the Milam sector can sit here, eat, relax and then walk ahead.  The bridge was in a very dilapidated condition and can break any moment. We visited few families in the neighborhood, spoke to them. I hardly saw women, and just a few children, in comparison to the number of men. I kept wondering where have they all gone? This place is a clear threat to children and women. (I heard on next day in Munsiyari that in the Jimighat camp, on 5th evening, after we had left, a woman was molested.)

The walk up was still more tiresome. We had to stop several times as our heartbeat went up and perspiring too much. On our way up, picked those two travelers at Dhapa camp, and traveled back to Munsiyari. 

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