Army, BSF Refuse To Share Sweets With Pak; Firing Resumes

24 October 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Army and BSF refused to share sweets with Pakistan on the occasion of Diwali festival yesterday as mark of protest against recent mortar shelling and firing by Pakistan Army and Rangers in border villages while the Rangers violated ceasefire several times, though briefly, during past two days on the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) tonight. Official sources said Pakistan Army opened firing on forward Indian positions in Balakote sector of Poonch district at 8.30 pm using mortars and automatic weapons. Several forward Indian villages at Panjani Nullah, Kanga Gali and MS Tekri came under heavy firing from Pakistan Army. Indian Army gave effective and appropriate response, leading to heavy exchanges that last more than one and half hours. There were no reports of any casualties or damage on the Indian side. Pakistan Rangers continued firing on the IB intermittently yesterday keeping the borders residents to the relief camps even on the occasion of Diwali festival. Indian forces didn't offer sweets to Pakistan Army and Rangers along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) on Diwali yesterday in the wake of repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army and Rangers especially targeting of civil areas leading to 10 fatal casualties and injuries to scores of others. 'There was no exchange of sweets between Army officials of India and Pakistan at Chakan-Da-Bagh on the LoC in Poonch district though a similar exchange had taken place on the occasion of Eid festival on October 6,' sources said, adding the Indian troops refused to share sweets with Pakistan Army, which has been raining mortars and bullets on innocent civilians. Pakistan Army hadn't allowed the people living in forward areas on the LoC to offer Eid prayers and celebrate the festival in view of continued shelling and firing on that day. On the IB also, the BSF didn't exchange sweets and fruits with the Rangers at Octroi Post in Suchetgarh sector of RS Pura. 'There was no exchange of sweets and fruits between BSF and Rangers in the wake of ceasefire violations and shelling of civilian areas by the latter, which had forced people of border areas to stay in the camps,' sources said, adding that the border people even couldn't celebrate Diwali in their homes yesterday due to intermittent firing from across the IB. While Army had shared sweets and fruits with Pakistan on the LoC on the occasion of Eid festival at Chakan-Da-Bagh, the Rangers had declined to share sweets at Octroi Post even then. Even in Punjab, India didn't offer sweets to Pakistan on the occasion of Diwali festival. 'In the light of present scenario with Pakistan, this time India has decided not to offer sweets to Pakistan on the eve of Diwali,' Jalandhar-based BSF IG, Punjab Frontier, Ashok Kumar said. The message that India would not offer them sweets was already conveyed to Pakistan during the flag meeting at Indo-Pak Attari border, the IG said. The two neighboring nations, for the past long time, on reciprocal basis, were following the custom of offering of sweets and greetings on various occasions like their Independence Day, besides on religious festivals like Diwali and Eid. However, troops of India and China posted in Chushul sector of Ladakh held a meeting and celebrated Diwali in a bid to deepen ties at the ground level between the guardians of the border. The meeting and subsequent celebrations took place yesterday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at Siachen to mark the festival of lights. As part of confidence building measures, Indian and Chinese border personnel meeting was held in Ladakh frontier region yesterday. The meeting was held between local Army commanders from India led by a Brigadier-level officer and Chinese troops led by a senior Colonel, at Chushul in Ladakh sector. The meet was held to celebrate Diwali. The celebrations at Hut in Chushul area included cultural shows which lasted for about two hours, sources said. The border personnel meetings have played a significant role in resolving the differences at local levels and have been instrumental in promoting and strengthening friendship, mutual trust and confidence between the two armies, the spokesman said. Participation of Chinese delegation in celebration is a gesture which will further foster friendly relations between India and China and build mutual trust and confidence, he said. Meanwhile, the Rangers continued intermittent firing at Samba, Hiranagar, Ramgarh and Arnia sector with small arms with a view to provoke the BSF but the latter exercised restraint and didn't retaliate. Sources said the Rangers wanted to spoil Diwali festival by provoking BSF to retaliate but the latter didn't. 'Pakistan provoked BSF again and again with the sole aim of spoiling the Diwali celebration of border population,' sources said. Maintaining that Pakistani troops resorted to firing in Arnia, Hiranagar, Ramgarh, Samba and Basantar sectors along IB several times yesterday, sources said BSF kept restraint and did not retaliate to the targeted fire of Pakistan. In the last few days, Pakistani Rangers have been resorting to unprovoked firing just to escalate situation along IB, they said. 'Pakistan Rangers resorted to small-arms firing at a few BoPs along IB in Arnia sector at 11 am, 11:20 am, 11:25 am and 11.40 am yesterday,' sources said. Earlier in the morning, Pakistani troops fired on forward posts along IB in Ramgarh sector of Samba district, they said, adding that in early hours too Pak Rangers fired on posts from Hiranagar sector of Kathua district. They also fired along Basantar forward belt in Kathua district from 7.30 am to 9 am. At 5.45 pm and 8 pm again, Pakistani Rangers opened firing in Arnia sector. The last shots were fired at 8.10 pm yesterday and since then there was no firing on the IB. 'BSF troops guarding the border did not retaliate,' sources said, adding: 'there was no loss of life or injury to anyone in the firing.' It was virtually a dark Diwali for nearly 33,000 border residents, who had to migrate to relief camps or the houses of their relatives from forward areas due to Pakistan shelling and firing all along the IB from Hiranagar to Akhnoor sectors in Jammu. The people couldn't light up their houses, burst crackers and exchange sweets in all the border areas as they had to flee and take shelter in the relief camps or houses of their relatives in safer zones. Almost all border villages wore complete deserted look along the IB on the occasion of Diwali festival yesterday. 'We have not only decided it on our own but also the authorities have advised us to stay away from our houses as Pakistan may play the spoilsport by targeting civilian areas on Diwali,' Ramesh Kumar, a resident of village Jabowal, Arnia said. There are several villages in R S Pura, Arnia, Pargwal, Ramgarh and other sectors across Jammu frontier which fall directly under the line of fire of Pak Rangers. Authorities had directed them to exercise caution and if possible stay at safer places. 'We cannot trust Pakistan, they can target us any time,' Santokh Singh-a village head said. However, situation in Arnia town remained tense as large number of shopkeepers downed their shutters after sunset and shifted to safer places.