Father-son Killed, 4 Injured As RS Pura, Arnia Turn Into 'war Zones'

23 August 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Pakistani Rangers tonight pounded all forwards posts of BSF and civilian areas with heavy mortar shelling and firing from automatic and long range weapons in entire Arnia and RS Pura sectors causing extensive damage and destruction to property even as last night they resorted to heaviest ever shelling in the ongoing hostilities between India and Pakistan in the two sectors targeting 22 posts of the BSF, 28 villages and 13 hamlets killing two civilians (father-son) and injuring four others including a BSF jawan and damaging several houses, triggering another spell of migration in left out villages along the International Border (IB) in RS Pura and Arnia sectors. Late tonight, people from forward village of SM Pura in Ramgarh sector of Samba district also migrated from their houses and were accommodated in Avtaal Community Hall, which was located in safer zone. Additional forces have been deployed on LoC and IB to give effective response to Pakistan firing. While about 3000 villagers from six villages of RS Pura had migrated to Rangpur and RS Pura last night, more than 2000 people from Arnia and RS Pura shifted to safer locations tonight after last night's shelling and firing in RS Pura sector, which has spread panic among the people living in entire International Border belt from Kathua to Akhnoor. On the Line of Control (LoC) also, Pakistan Army violated ceasefire twice-first during last night at Balakote sector and again in Shahpur sector this morning in Poonch district. Official sources said Pakistan Rangers resumed heavy shelling and firing in entire Arnia and RS Pura sectors along the International Border at 10 pm after pounding 22 BSF posts-12 in RS Pura and 10 in Arnia, 28 villages and 13 hamlets along the IB last night. The Rangers, according to sources, were using long range weapons to fire mortar shells and heavy arms bullets to target the forward BSF posts and civilian areas. The mortar shells and bullets were falling deep inside the villages, some of them into the houses, abandoned by the people. The people, who have not migrated so far from the border villages, had taken shelter in the bunkers constructed in their houses, sources said, adding till late tonight when the reports last came in there had been no report of any fresh casualty in firing by Pakistan tonight. 'Arnia and RS Pura sectors have completely been converted into 'war zone' with sound of shelling and firing reaching several kilometers away. The people, who haven't migrated, have been switching off their lights and confining them inside the bunkers. However, several villages in RS Pura and Arnia wore deserted look with people shifting to safer zones since last evening due to continued spell of shelling and firing,' sources said. People said sound of mortar explosions and heavy firing was being heard right up to RS Pura, Miran Sahib and Bishnah towns. Earlier, the Rangers directly targeted the BSF posts and civilians areas along the IB in more than five hours shelling using 82mm mortars and firing with heavy automatic weapons from 1.15 am to 6.30 am early today. A mortar shell fell inside the 'kullah' of Gujjars killing their two family members (father-son) and injuring three others and causing extensive damage to their 'kullah', which had been hit with splinters and bullets all around. It took security forces and police a long time to reach the 'kullah' to evacuate the civilians in view of continued shelling and firing and congested lanes along the IB. The neighbours along with security forces and police shifted the victims to RS Pura hospital early this morning there two of them were declared dead while four others were referred to Government Medical College hospital, Jammu in serious condition. The dead have been identified as Akram Hussain, 42, son of Shah Mohammad and his 12 years old son Aslam, residents of Jeora Farm. The injured included Akram's wife, Bibi, mother, Kali Bibi and son Yunus, 5. Condition of the injured was stated to be critical but they were responding to the treatment. They had suffered splinter injuries of mortar shells, which exploded inside their 'kullah'. A BSF jawan Shri Krishan Kumar son of Hem Singh R-o Uttarakhand was hit by the splinters in his forward post at Chowani in Arnia sector and was injured. He was evacuated from the post amidst firing and shelling and shifted to hospital. Though nearly 28 villages and 13 hamlets were targeted by the Rangers with mortars and heavy weapons for more than five hours in RS Pura and Arnia sectors, the forward villages of Jeora Farm, Abdullian, Vidhipur Jattan, Bhojpur, Korotana Khurd in RS Pura sector and Treva, Kaku De Kothe, Nikowal and Sei in Arnia sector bore brunt of shelling and firing with extensive damage caused to houses. Few cattle were injured in Arnia sector. Sources said the BSF retaliated very effectively giving matching response to the Rangers to silence their guns at all places. 'The retaliation by the BSF had become must as the Rangers were directly targeting the civil population,' sources said, adding that following return fire by the BSF, the guns of Rangers stopped at 6.30 am. Pakistan media claimed that two civilians including a woman were killed and six others including four Rangers were injured in retaliatory firing by the BSF at Khadaral, Jagran Gari, Bina Sulehrian and surrounding villages in Sialkot sector of Lahore province. They identified one of the dead civilian as Imdad Hussain of Jagran Gari. Sources said houses of Om Prakash son of Ram Dass, Mohinder Kumar son of Sain Dass and Darshan Singh son of Faghan Singh were extensively damaged in forward village of Treva in Arnia sector. The houses of Shankar Chand son of Ram Ditta and Balbir Kumar son of Krishan Lal suffered damage in shelling at Nikowal in Arnia. A cattle of Tilak Raj son of Isher Dass sustained splinter injuries at Devigarh in Arnia. Several houses in six villages, where people had migrated last night and shifted to Government High School Rangpur in Basspur Bungalow and ITI RS Pura, were damaged in firing and shelling. The border villagers of Abdullian, Korotana Khurd, Korotana Basti, Vidhipur Jattan, Chandu Chak and Lahiyan had migrated to the Government accommodation yesterday. Apart from these villages, the people from Nikowal, Sei Khurd, Mule Chak, Bhojpur and Jeora Farm in RS Pura sector, Treva, Jabowal and Kotli in Arnia sector also left their houses this evening and migrated to the Government buildings already identified for them. In RS Pura sector, about 2000 people migrated from five villages. The migrants from Jeora Farm have been accommodated in Government higher secondary school at Chakroi while the border villagers from Nikowal were lodged in Government HSS at Dablehar. The people from Sei Khurd and Bhojpur were kept at Pindi high school and Panchayat Ghar Basspur respectively while the villagers of Mule Chak were staying in Panchayat Ghar Dewangarh. About 1000 people from border village of Treva, Jabowal and Kotli in Arnia sector also migrated from their houses and were accommodated in Government higher secondary school, Slair. Sources said authorities were anticipating more migration from the border villages and has kept other Government buildings including schools, Panchayat Ghars, community halls etc ready for accommodating them as a part of their contingency plan. With this, about 6000 people have so far migrated from the border villages of Arnia and RS Pura sectors. About 3000 villagers had yesterday migrated from forward villages of RS Pura and took shelter in Government school at Rangpur and ITI RS Pura. Meanwhile, villagers in the border areas continued to live under constant fear that frequent ceasefire violations would terminate more than decade old truce agreement, putting their lives in peril. 'We live under constant fear of death. We don't know when a mortar bomb shell fired by Pakistani forces could hit and kill us,' said Om Prakash, a resident of Korotona Khurd in Arnia sector 'We want ceasefire initiated by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 to stay, so that we can live in peace. In the last two years, there has been a massive spike in ceasefire violations that have made our life hell,' Preetu Devi of Abdullian village said in Arnia sector as her family prepared to migrate to a Government school. Prakash, who had a close shave after a 82-mm mortar bomb shell tore open the roof-top of his house and landed in his room, said, 'we are rattled by frequent shelling and firing by Pakistani forces. The villagers are at their wit's end and they fear that the border truce would collapse, putting their lives in peril.' Harnam Singh (40) and Rani Devi (43) of the Vidhipur Jattan village, located barely two kilometers away from IB and Ajay (20) of Karotona Khurd, however, could not escape the violence as splinters of shells injured them Thursday night. In the neighbouring village of Jeora Farm, the pall of gloom descended on the Gujjar community dominated border hamlet, where a mortar bomb brutally killed Akram Hussain and his 12-year-old son Aslam while four other persons were injured. The residents of border hamlets along the IB have either migrated or were evacuated, leaving behind one or two members of each family to take care of their house and cattle. 'We have sent our entire families to safe shelters set up by the Government in R S Pura. We stayed back to take care of our homes and cattle,' Hans Raj of Abdullian village said, adding that the condition of most of the villages close to the IB was similar. Jammu's border belt of R S Pura and Arnia has been turned into a battle zone. Pakistan Rangers have targeted over 30-40 Border Out Posts (BOPs) and over 20 odd villages during 16 ceasefire violations in past 12 days, drawing strong retaliation from BSF. Dressed in battle fatigues and bullet proof jackets, jawans of the Border Security Force criss-cross through their Posts and Ditch Cum Bandh (DCB) ready to retaliate strongly. 'We are giving a befitting reply. The moral of jawans is very high', a BSF officer said, adding that troops have been alerted in view of the vicious design of Pak Rangers. A police officer said that firing has been going on for past 12 days ceaselessly. 'We have made arrangements for safe shelters for the border people. They have been shifted at put in schools and ITI here,' an officer of civil administration said. The villagers, who have not migrated from the forward villages of Arnia and RS Pura sectors to take care of their cattle stock and other belongings, were shifting to bunkers after 6 pm after switching off their lights. 'The RS Pura and Arnia sectors virtually look like war zones after sunset with complete darkness in the border villages, which were within the firing range of the Pakistan,' sources said, adding it was virtually a war like situation for the villagers the way Pakistan was using long range mortars and weapons to directly target the civil population. Meanwhile, the Line of Control (LoC) remained comparatively peaceful than the International Border but Pakistan violated ceasefire twice. Last night, Pakistan Army opened firing in Balakote sector at 9 pm targeting forward posts and civilian areas. The firing continued till 11.30 pm. Pakistan again broke ceasefire at Shahpur sector of Poonch at 9.45 by opening firing, which continued till 11.30 am. There were no casualties or damage on Indian side in the firing. Sources said Pakistan Army was trying to push infiltrators into the Indian territory under the cover of firing but troops have thwarted their plans.