'Get out of here and save yourself from Pak shelling'

300 families escape from hamlets after falling victim to firing

'Get out of here and save yourself from Pak shelling'

 “Sir, please move out of this place immediately! Shelling can start any moment,” an official screamed at this reporter on Thursday morning upon entering the remote hamlet of Samba on the International Border, one of the worst-affected areas in the continuous ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops.

Located barely a few hundred metres from the Pakistani border, the hamlet reflects the cruelty of ceasefire violation. An eerie silence prevailed in the locality as nearly 300 families had fled the hamlet after two women of a family fell victims to Pakistani shelling on Wednesday morning. 

After an hour’s search, I finally found the shattered house of Boti Ram, who lost his wife Shakuntla Devi and mother Bholi Devi in Pakistani shelling. As I entered the damaged building, a middle-aged man came rushing towards me. 

“This is the most dangerous place to be as Pakistanis fire here continuously. Boti Ram committed a mistake by returning to this house on Wednesday morning and you see what happened to his family,” the person, who identified himself as Mohinder Pal, a pharmacist in local Ayurvedic dispensary, told me.

“Boti Ram’s family was caught in the Pakistani shelling at 7:30 am on Wednesday. They had left the place on Tuesday but returned here to eat breakfast and feed cattle, which proved fatal. While his wife and mother succumbed to their injuries on way to hospital, Boti Ram, his son, grandson and granddaughter are battling for their lives in Jammu Medical College hospital,” he said.

The house itself stood helplessly, as an unsettling symbol of life ravaged by betrayals on the border. Shattered furniture, windows, bedding, doors and walls with blood stains formed the telltale signs of horror. “Several mortar shells landed in the compound and one directly hit the house, which proved fatal,” Mohinder Pal explained. We were about to finish the conversation when a terrible explosion was heard from a nearby field. I realised that I was in the line of fire. While rushing out of the village, I saw a man driving two buffaloes towards safer place. 

“One of my buffaloes has got a splinter injury and I want to shift these two to a safer place. The buffaloes are the only source of income for my family of 12 members,” Surinder Kumar told Deccan Herald. Kumar, who lives very near to Boti Ram’s house, said he was lucky that shells didn’t hit his house. 

“Situation in the village is so bad that even the last rites of the two women killed in shelling couldn’t be performed here. There is apprehension that if people assemble here for last rites, Pakistani Rangers will open fire on them,” he said. He added that shelling had continued throughout Wednesday night.

At least eight people have been killed and more than 70 injured in the last one week in one of the worst ceasefire violations since 2003. Pakistan Rangers have repeatedly violated the truce along the 198-km-long International Border in Jammu and the Line of Control in Poonch since October 1. 

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