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Fear grips Jammu villages after night of Pakistan shelling

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Story Dated: Saturday, October 19, 2013 11:58 hrs UTC

More than 40,000 people living in villages close to the International Border in the Jammu region are tense with fear after a night of shelling by Pakistan Rangers at 25 locations. They said Saturday they haven't seen such fierce firing in 10 years.

"There has been no firing since this (Saturday) morning. But Pakistan Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing at 25 places on the international border during the night," a senior Border Security Force official said.


"We have also killed an intruder during the night in Suchetgarh sector of the border", a senior BSF official said.

In Jammu district, people living in Pargwal area, which is situated 40 km from here, on the banks of the Chenab river, are worried they might have to leave their homes and villages for safety reasons.

Worried and tense with fear, they did not sleep through Saturday night as shells exploded in nearby areas.

The last time people living in this area left their homes was during the 1971 and 1965 wars between India and Pakistan.

Some residents of Najwal, Markoola, Jaman Bela, Maljodha, Matkoola and Nikkowal in the larger Pargwal area fear the worse is till to come.

"We haven't seen such shelling in a decade. Smoke covered our village for hours yesterday because of Pakistan shelling," said Surjeet, 39, a resident of Nikkowal village.

"Schools are now closed in the village and we fear the time for migration has already come," he said.

In the larger Pargwal area, there are at least half a dozen villages with a population of over 40,000.

Residents have been restricting children and even cattle from venturing out for the last five days.

"Working in the fields has become impossible because of the shelling by Pakistan Rangers", said another villager living close to the International Border.

India and Pakistan signed a historic bilateral ceasefire agreement in November 2003. As guns of the two armies and paramilitary forces guarding the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border fell silent following the ceasefire agreement, a modicum of peace and normalcy had returned to the lives of thousands of people living close to the borders in divided Kashmir region.

After ten years, this luxury of peace for these people appears to be withering.

Since the beginning of this year, Pakistan troops have violated the ceasefire around 150 times in Jammu and Kashmir, and have done so at least 130 times in the Jammu region alone.

Two women and four children were injured in Pakistan shelling in these areas earlier this week.

Some villages in Pargwal area are situated barely 800 metres from the International Border, while others are less than a kilometer way from the border.

Vehicular traffic on roads close to Pargwal has also remained suspended fearing a mishap because of shelling from across the border.

State Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand visited the area Friday to boost confidence among the villagers and also take steps to ensure their safety.

He directed the district administration to buy speed boats to cover distances in the Chenab river for timely evacuation from the villages in case of any casualty.

But ensuring safety of the residents is a difficult task for the civil administration.

"The only thing that can ensure our safety is silencing the guns from across the border. The BSF is doing a great job protecting the borders, but the central government must take up the issue with Pakistan so that the ceasefire agreement is respected," said Ranjit Singh, 54, a resident of the area.


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