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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Fear grips villagers along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir after Pak shelling

Villages along the Line of Control in Kashmir valley in Jammu have come under intense Pakistani shelling since Tuesday.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2019 21:53 IST
Mir Hasan and Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Mir Hasan and Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Srinagar/Jammu
Poonch: Border Security Force (BSF) jawans patrol near Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch on Monday, February 19, 2019.
Poonch: Border Security Force (BSF) jawans patrol near Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch on Monday, February 19, 2019. (PTI file photo)
         

Fear has gripped villagers along the 744-km long Line of Control and 198 km long International Border following overnight shelling by Pakistani troops in Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts in Jammu region and in Baramulla district in Kashmir valley and air space violation by Pakistani fighter jets in Nowshera sector on Wednesday morning.

After a brief lull Pakistan Army again resorted to heavy shelling in Mankote, Mendhar and Balakote areas of Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday evening, prompting India to retaliate in equal measure.

“Pakistan started opening fire and shot mortars in Balnoi Sagra area of Mankote sector around 6 pm on Wednesday. Ten minutes later they started firing in Mendhar and at 6.40 pm they also spread the arc of fire to Balakote,” said an official.

Authorities ordered all government and private schools within a range five km from International Border in Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch to remain closed on Thursday.

The nervousness is also visible in the town of Uri in Baramulla district after shelling late Tuesday night continued for several hours in nearby villages of Kalgai and Kamalkote which began.

“We are living in fear and since 3 am we have been hearing sounds of shelling,” said Zaffar Iqbal, who owns a shop in the main town. “We are the border residents who will have to pay the price of any escalation.’’

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The town which has a small market is always filled with villagers who come down from mountains wore a deserted look on Wednesday as all shops were closed. “Today shops are closed due to strike on Article 35A, and due to shelling villagers prefer to remain in their villages, however, whenever there is shelling on the LoC or nearby villages very few people come to the town,’’ said Manzoor Ahmad a resident of Lagama village which is four kilometre ahead of town and forwards posts of both India and Pakistan are visible for the village.

The administration has planned to move people of some villages along the LoC to safer locations after ceasefire violation during the night. Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, G N Ittoo and SSP Baramulla, Abdul Qayoom had a meeting with village heads in the wake of the shelling.

Officials said that shells fired from Pakistani side fell at Kamalkote and Kalgai villages which are located along the LoC. Senior Superintendent of Police Baramulla, Abdul Qayoom said that there has been no loss of life or property in Uri by the shelling. “If there is a need, people could be shifted to safer places.’’

Pakistan violated 2003-ceasefire agreement by shelling mortars using battalion level artillery through the night. In the Uri sector, the two sides exchanged fire that began around 3 am on Wednesday. In late 1990s cross border shelling was a routine which forced many times villagers near close to Loc to migrate towards safer places.

“We have lost hundreds of villagers; many were maimed and injured before ceasefire was implemented. That time we had underground bunkers which got damaged in 2005 earthquake. Now we are at mercy of almighty,’’ said Mukthair Ahmad a resident of Garcoat.

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Tension has escalated between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed blew up a bus killing 40 CRPF troopers on February 14 which prompted Tuesday’s air strike by India on a JeM camp across the LoC.

In Jammu region, despite the Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) being put on high alert along border districts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch, villagers fear a spike in shelling.

“Situation has turned tense on Wednesday. The Army has called me twice on my phone telling me to relay the info to villagers to take precautionary measures. They have asked us to stay indoors and stop sending children to school,” said Bachan Lal, former Sarpanch of Abdulian-Chanduchak Panchayat.

Lal’s wife Neelam Devi is the Sarpanch of the Panchayat.

Though schools within five km radius of Rajouri and Poonch districts were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday in view of the volatile situation, schools in Jammu district had remained open on Wednesday..

Also Read | Only seven people knew of the timing of air strike on Balakot

Jammu’s Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Kumar said that people have been advised to stay alert and take precautionary measures.

Five Indian soldiers were injured late Tuesday when Pakistan pounded around 15 places along the LoC in Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts.

Defence spokesman Lt Col Devender Anand said, “On Tuesday around 6.30 PM onwards Pakistan out of anger and frustration initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by shelling with heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places all along the LoC”.

Pakistan army targeted Akhnoor, Pallanwala in Jammu district, Nowshera, Laam, Jhangar in Rajouri district and Mankote, Mendhar, KG sector, Khari Karmara, Balakote and Poonch in Poonch sectors.

Rahul Yadav, District Magistrate of Poonch denied reports of migration from forward villages in Poonch district including Chajala Pathri.

First Published: Feb 27, 2019 10:19 IST