With no let up in mortar shelling from Pakistan for the last nearly a week, over a dozen villages along the International border in R S Pura and Arnia sectors resembled ghost villages on Thursday as nearly 90 per cent of the villagers have migrated to safer places along with their cattle.
“What is the option when mortar bombs fall on your houses,’’ asked Romesh Lal, 45, who along with his two brothers had already shifted their joint family of 16 people to R S Pura town. They had returned home in the morning to see their cattle, but now they were thinking of carrying them also to R S Pura as on Thursday morning itself, a BSF head constable Jitender Kumar of Bihar got killed there while seven civilians injured at nearby Gopur Basti and Khurd in mortar shells fired from across the border.
Only August last year, Romesh had lost his younger brother Pawan in mortar shelling. His 85-year-old father Ajeet Singh was badly injured and he had to be shifted to Amritsar for treatment where doctors amputated his right arm to save him. The family spent over a Rs 3 lakh on his treatment, but the government gave them only Rs 75,000 ex-gratia as fixed in case of seriously injured people.
As the residential population was situated less than 500 meters from the zero line, the government had got a community bunker constructed there for use of villagers in event of enemy mortar shelling. “It can at a time accommodate maximum of 25-30 people, while village has a population of nearly 400,’’ Ashok Kumar who had lost his all the three buffalos in Pakistani mortar shelling on Tuesday.
There are 43 community bunkers across Jammu region and of these, nearly two dozen are along the international border in Jammu district alone. However, each of these cannot accommodate more than 25-30 people at a time, leaving majority of the people exposed to mortar shells, sources said, adding that nearly 50 more bunkers are under construction in the region.
The scene was also no different at the adjoining Chandu Chak village where nearly 90 per cent of the houses were virtually locked as most of the nearly 140 families had migrated to safer places. “I have spent most of my hard earned earnings in constructing and reconstructing the house,’’ said Rachpal Singh, on whose rooftop a mortar shell had created a big carter. He and his family survived as they had left the house only half an hour earlier.
Surjit Singh of Chandu Chak had hardly brought home his 95 year old father Khazan Singh after a successful heart surgery at Ludhiana that mortar shells started landing on Monday evening. He along with his family somehow spent the night awake and next morning when shelling stopped, he shifted all of them to a relative’s house in Baspur Bangla. However, in the evening when he was returning home, shelling restarted compelling him to return half way to his relative’s house.
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Similarly, most of the people from various other villages in R S Pura tehsil like Korotana, Vidhipur, Suchetgarh, Jora Farm, Gharana, Khurd, Flora etc also moved out of their native places. From Arnia, villages like Treva, jabbowal, nikkowal, sai etc., wear an almost deserted look.
The shells are landing even in residential areas, said Gurinder Singh of Treva, adding that it has been after a long time that Rangers have been targeting civilian population even during day time.
Ever since Border Security Force have foiled an infiltration attempt by a group of heavily armed terrorists killing one of them at Bobiya in Hiranagar sector, there has been no let up in small arms fire and mortar shelling from across the international border. Three BSF personnel and a six-year-old boy have so far been killed, while nearly 30 others including mostly civilians injured so far. Of them, one BSF head constable has been killed and seven civilians injured in R S Pura sector on Thursday morning itself.
Though BSF are also giving a befitting reply inflicting heavy casualties and damage on Pakistan side, the Rangers are continuing with the mortar shelling at intermittent intervals.