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Rising tension fuels fear among villages near LoC

Zulfikar Majid, Srinagar, Jan 12, 2013, DHNS

People pray for calm amid impasse

An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol along the border fence at an outpost along the India-Pakistan border in Suchit-Garh, 36 kms southwest of Jammu on January 11, 2013. Pakistan summoned the Indian ambassador to protest against 'unacceptable and unprovoked' attacks by the Indian army that killed two Pakistani soldiers in five days in Kashmir. AFP

Amid rising tension between Indian and Pakistan armies, thousands of families living close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir are praying for peace.

The looming impasse has increased fears among the villagers living close to the LoC of a repeat of situations in 1990s and early 2000s when daily shelling was a routine affair. Reports from the frontier villages of Poonch in Jammu and Uri and Tanghdar in Kashmir said people have started taking shelter in underground bunkers.

The inhabitants of nearly a dozen villages close to the Hajipeer sector—where on January 6 Indian troops allegedly violated ceasefire and attacked a Pakistani post, killing a Pakistani soldier—are worried over the fate of LoC ceasefire, which has been in effect since November 2003, reports added.


Fresh exchange of fire rock LoC in Poonch, infiltration


Jammu, Jan 12, 2013, (PTI)

Indian and Pakistan troops tonight traded heavy gunfire along the Line of Control in Poonch sector after the movement of a group of suspected infiltrators was detected, in fresh escalation of tension.

"There was a movement of 6 to 7 persons close to LoC opposite Krishagati sub-sector in Poonch sector at around 2145 hours tonight", Defence Spokesman Col R K Palta told PTI.

There was no immediate report of casualty or injury on the Indian side.

Indian troops opened fire on the suspected infiltrators, the spokesman said adding that thereafter exchange of heavy fire took place. After about half-an-hour of exchange of fire, the suspected infiltrators disappered from the scene, Col Palta said adding the intensity of firing from both sides has reduced but is going on.

It is suspected that either a groups of militants or Border Action Team (BAT) could have been undertaking movement close to LoC opposite Krishnagati sub-sector in Poonch tonight.

The eruption of exchange of fire tonight broke a lull of 48 hours. Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire by firing mortars shells and from small arms on Indian posts along LoC in Krishnagati sector of Poonch district on Thursday, the Defence spokesman said.

Thursday's was the third ceasefire violation by Pakistan troops along Poonch sector after the barbaric killing of two Indian jawans.

“Fear has gripped us after heavy and unprovoked firing and shelling by Pakistan, which not only targeted border outposts but also border villages on Sunday. Three civilians were killed in our village in October last year when Pakistani troops indiscriminately fired mortar shells on our village,” Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Charunda in the Uri sector of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, told Deccan Herald over the phone.  

“We fear that we will face the worst situation again if the ceasefire breaks. We take shelter in the ground floor of our house or bunkers due to the fear of shelling,” he added.
People living close to the LoC used to hide in bunkers when the two armies were firing mortars and shells at each other before the 2003 ceasefire.

However, following the ceasefire agreement between the two countries, life has been peaceful until now.

Ahmad, whose son was severely injured in cross-border firing in 2011, said they don’t want to see the repetition of the “deadly past.”

He said the villagers near the LoC pray for things to get normal soon “so we can continue to lead a peaceful life.”

According to Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad, under the contingency plan, the government “can shift people living in shelling-prone areas along the LoC to safe locations.

“People living at zero line have already been paid money to construct bunkers for their safety. The Government of India had paid Rs 15,000 to each family to construct underground bunkers. However, unfortunately after receiving the money, most of the people have not constructed the bunkers,” he said.

Meanwhile, situation on the LoC and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir remained tense for the seventh consecutive day on Saturday amid reports of intermittent exchange of fire and ceasefire violations.

“The situation along the LoC is tense. Sometimes they (Pakistani troops) fire on our positions to which we retaliate,” a senior army officer told Deccan Herald. The Krishna Ghatti Sector in the Poonch district of Jammu, where Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers and reportedly chopped off their heads, continues to be a hot spot.

A local resident in the Mendhar area of Poonch told Deccan Herald on the phone that firing went on throughout the night. “However, the firing stopped in the morning. Since then there has been calm,” he said.

Sources said there was no report of any casualty or damage on either side of the LoC since Friday. After the suspension of the cross LoC bus service between J&K and PoK on Friday, the fate of 58 Indian and 65 Pakistani passengers was uncertain.

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