Adeeba Begum was seven months pregnant in June 2020, when she woke up to the news that a woman in a village 20 km away from hers had died from heavy shelling. Begum whimpered and shivered for hours in her home, worried that she and her unborn child would meet the same fate.
Like the woman who had died, Begum lived in an “LoC village”, an informal term that refers to villages in Jammu and Kashmir that lie close to the Line of Control, the volatile de facto border between India and Pakistan.
While Begum lived in Hathlanga, the other woman’s village was Batgran. They were part of a string of LoC villages in Baramulla district that included Thajal, Tillawari and others, all of which had experienced intense shelling over the years.
Begum had only weeks to go before she delivered her baby, and she was terrified of the risk to its life if any harm came to her.She decided that she had to leave the village as soon as possible, and make her way to a safer place. “I couldn’t have waited for shelling to kill me, my unborn child and my husband,” she said. “So we decided to move out.”
A week later, she and her husband Umer...