Now, villagers looking for safer havens

Shelling from Pakistan has triggered civilian migration since Saturday night from a Jammu and Kashmir village located near the border.

People of Suchetgarh Kullian village, situated 400 metres from the international border in Samba district, left their homes on Saturday night and took shelter at a community hall.

"Suchetgarh Kullian villagers, including women and children, have taken shelter in a community hall at Kali Bari near the railway station. There are around 100 women and children at the community hall...," an official of the district administration said. There are around 70 houses in the village and except for some men taking care of the houses, all others have left the village due to fear of becoming targets of Pakistan shelling in the area.

Many other villagers from Suchetgarh Kullian have left for their relatives homes away from the border, according to reports.

This is the first civilian migration from a border village in Jammu and Kashmir after the 1971 and 1965 wars with Pakistan. Villagers told reporters that Pakistan shelling damaged some of their houses on Friday night and that they had no other option other than to migrate to safer places.

Pakistan Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing at 25 locations on the international border on Saturday night, triggering panic and fear among residents of border villages. Reports from Ramgarh border village of Samba district also indicated that residents were preparing to shift families to safer locations.

Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde will arrive here on Tuesday to take stock of the situation following the heightened tension on the borders in Jammu region. India and Pakistan had signed a historic bilateral ceasefire agreement in November 2003.

As guns of the two armies and paramilitary forces guarding the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border fell silent following the ceasefire agreement, a modicum of peace and normalcy had returned to the lives of thousands of people living close to the border areas.

After 10 years, this luxury of peace for these people appears to be withering.


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