As Pakistan Pounds International Border, Terrified Kashmiris Flee Villages

6 January 2015
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: In the wee hours of Monday, Mohandir Pal, 45, a resident of Charaliya village, was woken up by loud explosions as Pakistani rangers targeted Indian posts and civilian areas along the International Border in Jammu. In the next few hours, the entire village was deserted. Pal followed suit and took refuge at a makeshift shelter set up by the government many kilometres away, along with thousands of residents from the Galaad, Bain, Pahad Pur, Boiobian and Pansar villages of Samba and Hira Nagar. Pal told Firstpost that the villagers had hoped that the violence would die down after the elections in the state were concluded recently. But the fresh escalation has left them feeling terrified and hopeless. 'Hope is a myth. These borders will be never be peaceful unless the two countries resolve their issues. I have started believing that if a soldiers fights with his wife, they start firing at their rivals across the border on next day,' Pal said. On Monday night at around 11 pm, according to officials, there was a fresh, intense round of firing along the International Border by Pakistani rangers which forced thousands of villagers to abandon their homes and flee to safety. Senior journalist Pawan Sharma who is based in Jammu and has been covering border conflict for decades, spend Monday night in Baingala village. Mortars and shells were raining down on the village and police were trying to get as many people out to safer places as they could in their bullet proof cars, he said. 'I saw mortar shells landing in the village. Children, women and aged were shifted throughout the night to safer areas. Police provided bullet proof vehicles. At least seven thousand people have been already been evacuated.' he said. 'The villages look deserted as if no one has ever lived there. This is not a normal life,' he told Firstpost over the phone. Reports said the number of people who have abandoned their homes in border villages has already crossed 10,000. These people are the primary targets of mounting tension between the two armies, which has resulted in deaths of soldiers from both India and Pakistan as well as civilians. Indian officials said firing resumed at multiple points in Jammu along the International Border last night as Pakistani rangers fired heavy mortars at Indian posts. 'The fire was directed at scores of Border Out Posts and civilian areas along International Border (IB) in Samba and Kathua districts, resulted in the killing of a BSF jawan,' a defence spokesperson said. Earlier, four jawans and a woman were killed in Pakistan shelling and firing during the last week, officials said, adding, five Pakistani rangers and a girl were killed in retaliatory firing. Kathua's deputy commissioner, Kathua Shahid Iqbal Chowdhary, said Pakistan has started shelling at the border villages and more than 5,000 people living in 57 villages on the Indian side are in danger. 'We have relocated the villagers to safer places for the time being,' he told Firstpost. India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement which intensified after the BJP-led government at the Centre called off its foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan. But it is the ordinary people living in the remote corners along IB and Line of Control that have to pay the price of the animosity between the two countries. BSF Director General DK Pathak is scheduled to visit the International Border today to take stock of the situation.