States evacuate villages along Pakistan border, BSF calls up reserves
Border states were told to evacuate villagers living close to the Pakistan frontier, the BSF called up reserves and fishermen told to report suspicious activities as India on Thursday prepared for any fallout of its “surgical strikes” across the LoC.
The Union home ministry asked Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir to move to safer locations people living within 10km of the border or line of control, the de facto border with Pakistan.
The directive came within hours of the Indian Army’s announcement that it had crossed the LoC early Thursday and inflicted heavy damage on seven “launchpads” militants were preparing to use to cross over into the country.
The raid comes 10 days after 18 soldiers were killed when suspected Pakistani suicide attackers struck an army camp in Uri in Kashmir.
The Border Security Force put all its units on “high alert” in Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The units were asked to step up vigil and bolster their numbers by bringing in all personnel who were in the reserve, officials said.
The ceremonial beating retreat ceremony at the Wagah border was called off, BSF sources said. The flag was lowered in the evening but without the usual fanfare as locals and tourists who were turned away, sources said. The BSF, officials said, had restricted all civilian movement along the border.
The movement of trucks on the trade routes on the LoC in Uri and Poonch sectors was also brought to a halt.
“We have asked border villagers living along IB (international border) and LoC to shift to safer area as a precautionary measure,” Jammu deputy commissioner Simrandeep Singh said.
Villagers started moving out from forward locations in Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts, which often bear the brunt of Pakistan shelling.
Neighbouring Punjab, which has six districts bordering Pakistan, was on maximum alert. Home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and requested immediate evacuation.
The schools in the border areas were shut till further orders and leaves of police and medical personnel cancelled, sources said.
Local authorities used public address systems in gurdwaras, asking residents to move to safer zones.
Badal asked senior officials to ensure that evacuation from Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts was smooth.
Though no such orders have been given to Rajasthan -- so far -- security has been stepped up in the desert state.
Officials in the border districts were told to be ready for any situation, a home department official said. The official said light machine guns were given to all police stations in border villages and a meeting of district, police, BSF and army officials called to assess the situation.
In Kutch district of Gujarat, fishermen were asked not to venture into deep sea and report any suspicious movement.
(With inputs from agencies)
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