LoC Tension: Poonch Residents Told Not To Venture Out During Shelling

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(Representational Pic: PTI)

JAMMU – The district authorities on Monday issued advisory to the residents of Poonch to avoid unnecessary movement during shelling, even as Pakistan today summoned Indian Charge d’Affaires over the alleged ceasefire violation by Indian troops that left 10 civilians in Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir (PcK) injured.

“The district administration has advised people to remain cautious and avoid unnecessary movement during shelling,” a police official said, adding that the local residents have also been directed not to touch the mortar shells lying scattered in different localities.

Nearly a dozen shells failed to explode during the cross-border shelling and are being defused by experts, he said.

“We are lucky to survive the intense shelling by Pakistan on Sunday. Life has become a virtual hell for the border residents due to frequent cross-border shelling,” Mohammad Aslam, 68, a resident of Drana village of Mendhar said.

He said the situation is peaceful today but nobody knows when the guns start roaring again.

“We appeal to the government to speed up the work on the community and individual bunkers for our safety. The 15 community bunkers and a few individual bunkers have been sanctioned for our village but only one had got completed so far while the work on the others is going on,” he said.

Aslam said he, along with his family, hid inside their house to escape the intense shelling.

“It is the grace of the almighty that nobody is our village was hit despite heavy shelling,” he said and demanded more individual bunkers to cover all residents in the village given its proximity to the LoC and frequent ceasefire violations from across the border.

The heavy shelling of mortar bombs from across the border killed a soldier on Saturday last.

“The Pakistani guns fell silent around 8 pm and there was no report of ceasefire violation by Pakistan from anywhere along the LoC,” an army official said today.

The heavy shelling of mortar bombs from across the border also triggered a forest fire in Mendhar sector and efforts are on to douse the flames, they said.

Naik Rajeev Singh Shekhawat, 36, was killed and three others were injured in the intense Pakistani firing in Degwar sector on Saturday, while several residential houses and cattle sheds suffered damages in heavy shelling in Mendhar and Balakot sectors on Sunday.

The army official said that the Pakistan Army used artillery guns and long-range mortar bombs to target forward posts and villages in the three sectors in the past two days. The Indian Army retaliated befittingly, resulting in a number of casualties on Pakistani side.

He said the army guarding the LoC are on high alert and keeping a close vigil as Pakistan is using the cross-border shelling to push militants into this side.

Meanwhile, Pakistan today summoned Indian Charge d’Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia to lodge a strong protest over the alleged ceasefire violation by the Indian forces on the Line of Control that injured 10 Pakistani civilians.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office in a statement said that Director General (South Asia and SAARC) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri registered the country’s “strong protest” at the ceasefire violations by Indian forces in Jabbar, Sandhara, Sumbal Gali and Dabsi villages of Kotli district on February 9.

It said that in the firing, 10 civilians, including children and women, were injured.

Separately, the Pakistan Army in a statement claimed that Pakistani troops responded to the firing, killing one Indian solider and injuring three others, including a Major, and “substantial damage” inflicted on Indian posts.

13 Army men, 2 BSF troopers killed in 2019 CFVs: Rajnath

The Pakistan army was involved in a total of 3,479 ceasefire violations along the Jammu and Kashmir border in 2019, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday.

In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, he said 13 Indian Army personnel and two soldiers of the Border Security Force (BSF) were killed in action in 2019 due to ceasefire violations (CFVs) and cross border firing (CBF).

“Very often militants attempting to carry out reconnaissance to facilitate infiltration also become casualties and these are then depicted as civilian casualties to portray India’s action as being aggressive,” Singh said.

Such portrayal is done to draw the attention of international media to CFVs and CBF, and divert the attention from the support provided to militants, who are trained by Pakistan in PcK (Pakistan-controlled Jammu and Kashmir) and its other areas, the minister said.

Appropriate retaliation to the CFVs, as required, has been carried out by the Indian Army or BSF, he said.

“In addition, all violations of ceasefire are taken up with Pakistan authorities at the appropriate level through the established mechanism of hotlines, flag meetings as well as weekly talks between the Directorate Generals of Military Operations of the two countries,” Singh stated.

“The BSF, too, holds talks at various levels with its counterpart viz Pakistan Rangers,” the minister mentioned.

Diplomatically, India has repeatedly emphasised, including at the highest level, the need for Pakistan to uphold the sanctity of the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir as per its obligations emanating from the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, Singh stated.

In January, February and March, there were 216, 251 and 275 CFVs, respectively by Pakistan along the Jammu and Kashmir border, the minister stated.

In October, November and December, there were 398, 333 and 393 CFVs, respectively by the neighbouring country along the border, he added.

At 190, the lowest number of CFVs in 2019, were observed in the month of June, according to the statistics presented by the defence minister in Rajya Sabha.

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