(Jammu and Kashmir)
Fear today returned to haunt the residents of border villages as Pakistan resumed heavy mortar shelling targeting scores of Border Out Posts and civilian areas along the International Border (IB) in Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
The situation along the border in Samba and Kathua has become grim as the Pakistani side resorted to heavy mortar shelling, killing a BSF jawan in Samba sector, after a day of eerie silence.
“Fear has returned to haunt us… Whenever the Pakistani side fails in front of our security forces it starts targeting the innocent civilians…,”said Avtar Singh, a Samba resident.
More than 5,000 residents of the 57 villages in Kathua district are in danger and “as soon as the firing from across the border stops, we will launch rescue operations,” Kathua DC Shahid Iqbal Chowdhary said.
Over 3,500 villagers from Samba and Kathua have already migrated to safer areas after four jawans and a woman were killed in Pakistan shelling and firing during the past week.
Residents of R S Pura sector situated along the IB too have started migrating following spurt in cross-border firing in the Samba and Kathua districts.
“Though there has been no firing in our side, we have decided to move to safer places. We don’t want to live under the fear of getting killed any moment,” said Gurjeet Singh, a resident of R S Pura.
The R S Pura residents say majority of the residents have shifted their children and elderly people to safer places.
“From the moment the Pakistani side started targeting the civilian population in Samba and Kathua districts we shifted our children and elderly people to safer locations,” said Lal Singh, another resident.
The district administration says it has put in place contingency plans and has activated all relief camps in case the Pakistani side opens another front in Jammu district.
“There is fear amongst the border residents here that the Pakistani side might start targeting them as it has been targeting civilian areas in Kathua and Samba…,” G N Balwan, Addition District Development Commissioner of Jammu .
The army has also deployed its bomb disposal squad to defuse any live shell in the area. “To minimise the casualty, army bomb disposal squads have been pressed into service to defuse unexploded mortar shells in border villages and towns,” Jammu-based defence spokesman Lt Col Manish Mehta said.
Mehta said Pakistan has been resorting to cross-border firing over the past few days in Samba, Hiraanagar and Kathua areas targeting innocent civilians.