Pak Army targets fleeing people
26 May 2002
The Daily Excelsior
BEGA/BERA (RS PURA SECTOR): In a most inhuman and barbaric act, Pakistan army last night targeted houses and dhoks of civilians in six forward villages in RS Pura sector killing five civilians including four members of a Gujjar family, critically wounding eight others and causing extensive damage to more than 30 houses. Shelling triggered migration of over 300 families from these villages. In adjoining Arnia sector, Pakistan army resorted to mortar shelling for the first time forcing people of almost all forward villages to desert their houses. Few people, still left in the villages, were seen packing their household goods to leave their houses by this evening. Bega, Bera, Choga, Chandu Chak, Abdullian and Korotana villages, located within one and a half kilometer from the international boundary in RS Pura sector were subjected to intense mortar shelling by Pakistan army at 2100 hours last night. Shelling took place when the people were leaving their houses alongwith their goods after getting report from army pickets regarding heavy movement of army across the border. Thirty year old Nazir Ahmed son of Lal Hussain, a resident of Choga village had gone to Bera to help her sister Quiyyan, 26, wife of Taroon Gujjar to shift her goods to a safer area when two mortar shells fell on Quiyyan’s house at about 2110 hours. Nazir Ahmed, Quiyyan and her two children—Bunty, 12 and Dodi, 10, were killed on spot and two other children—Mushtaq, 2 and Choti, 1, were seriously injured. Quiyyan’s house was completely destroyed in the shelling. Another civilian Bachan Lal son of Lal Chand was leaving for a safer area after deserting his house in Korotana when a shell fell close to him in a field. Bachan too died on spot. A total of eight civilians including two minor children of Quiyyan were injured as the mortar shells rained in the villages and exploded on the roads being used by the border villagers to migrate. Other injured included Bachan Lal S-o Ravela Ram R-o Chanan Chak, Janak Singh S-o Sunder Singh R-o Bera, Satish Kumar S-o Harbans Lal R-o Begga, Gurdas S-o Sher Singh R-o Begga, Roshan Bibi D-o Bashir R-o Choga and Ram Pyari W-o Janak Singh R-o Begga. Injured have been hospitalised. Over 300 families of the villages, hit by mortar shelling, reached RS Pura town in the mid- night amidst mounting tension and panic. ''It was a virtual war like situation when we left the houses. Mortar shells were raining on the villages. Scared and wailing women and children were rushing out of their houses in panic in the darkness and didn’t know where to take shelter as the shells were also crossing the villages'', recalled Santokh Singh, a resident of Choga, presently camping in RS Pura Industrial Training Institute (ITI) building, where about 300 migrant families had been accommodated. Santokh Singh, a witness of 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak hostilities, asserted that he had not seen such a heavy mortar shelling in the two war which he saw last night. ''It was more than a war. Shells were falling in the houses, dhoks, fields and other installation giving the villagers very little chance to leave for safety'', he said regretting Pakistan troops act in targeting the civilians. ''We had just started folding our beds to pack up the luggage and leave the village after being sounded by army when the first mortar shell hit our village in Choga'', a villager Ram Lal said. ''Within minutes, the shells started raining on the village'', Ram Lal, who took shelter under a tree alongwith his wife and three children and was lucky to survive the shelling, said while sitting in a room of ITI building. Deserted by the entire population, Bega and Bera villages presented a devastating look. More than 30 houses and dhoks in the two villages had either being damaged or developed cracks after being hit by the mortar shells over-night. Several cattle, abandoned by the fleeing villagers, were lying dead or injured in the fields. However, some elderly people had ventured to return to the villages to see the extent of damage their houses and fields had suffered in the shelling. ''Nothing is left in my house. Everything is lost in the shelling'', a veteran Inder Lal said pointing out towards his house damaged in shelling. Inder Lal said he and his family had to leave the house in a hurry in view of shelling and, therefore, couldn’t collect their goods. There were few other people, who were seen collecting goods from their damaged houses and returning hurriedly to RS Pura town anticipating a fresh spell of shelling by Pakistan army. With panic looming large on the faces of the villagers, they even refused to speak to the press people. An army officer in Bega told EXCELSIOR on the condition of anonymity that ‘shelling has been adequately replied by the troops’. ''The only difference is that we were targeting Pakistan army’s posts and bunkers while the enemy troops were directly hitting the civilian installations killing innocent and poor people'', he said. Yesterday, Pakistan army had lost their atleast six soldiers and four posts in retaliatory shelling by Indian side. SSP Border Gulzar Singh Slathia, camping at RS Pura after visiting all border villages rocked by shelling last night, told EXCELSIOR that police acted swiftly after shelling and evacuated the victims to RS Pura hospital where five of them were declared as brought dead. Seven injured were admitted in RS Pura hospital and Medical College. ''About 300 migrant families have been accommodated in RS Pura ITI building where they were being fully taken care of'', Slathia said, adding ‘the Border Police was fully geared-up to meet with any eventuality’. Meanwhile, four members of the Gujjar family, killed in shelling at Bega, were buried in Deoli Tibba graveyard in Bishnah this afternoon. A large number of local people attended the burial. SDPO Bari Barahamana Savita Rani Parihar and SHO Bishnah Jagdev Singh Slathia were also present. Another shelling victim Bachan Lal was cremated in RS Pura. Situation was no better in adjoining Arnia sector where 80 per cent of the population in forward villages has migrated to safer areas, mostly to the houses of their relatives while rest of the people were in the process of migrating this evening. This correspondent saw majority of the houses deserted by the civilians in Treva, Rangpur, Jabowal, Kotla Camp, Gourian Chak, Devigarh and surrounding villages. ''All of them are gone. I don’t know where'', an old villager Ram Parkash, who was the lone soul visible in Jabowal village, located within 300 meters from the International Border, said. Ram Parkash too was planning to leave the village this evening saying ''it was very difficult to stay here as more shells could land any time''. According to him, about 20 mortar shells landed in different fields in Jabowal last night but only after the civilians had deserted their houses. ''Jabowal, Treva and Rangpur too would have witnessed the killings like RS Pura but fortunately, the civilians here were sounded by army well in advance after observing heavy movement across the border, which gave enough time to the people to pack up their goods and leave for safer areas'', a local police officer said. The migrants in Arnia had so far lodged themselves in the houses of their relatives and didn’t report to the Government school buildings. However, with no let up visible in the migration, the authorities feared that by tomorrow they would have to open the school buildings for the fleeing people.