An Army major was among four Indian soldiers killed as Pakistani troops, in a major ceasefire violation, opened fire on forward Indian positions without provocation along the Line of Control in Keri sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district. One soldier was injured in the firing.
Three of the dead have been identified as Major Prafulla Ambadas Moharkar, Lance Naik Gurmail Singh and Sepoy Pargat Singh, Udhampur-based Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel N N Joshi said. The injured soldier is receiving medical treatment. Major Ambadas (32) belonged to Maharashtra’s Bhandara district and is survived by his wife Aboli Moharkar. Lance Naik Singh (34) hailed from Amritsar and is survived by his wife Kuljit Kaur and a daughter, while Sepoy Singh (30) was from Karnal and is survived by his wife Ramanpreet Kaur and a son.
An Army press release lauded the three as “brave and sincere soldiers” and said that the “nation will always remain indebted to them for their supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty”.
It added that the Indian Army had retaliated “strongly and effectively” at Pakistan Army posts, and that the “martyrdom of Indian Army soldiers will not go in vain”. J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her deputy Nirmal Singh, meanwhile, conveyed their sympathies to the families of the soldiers.
Sources said the four soldiers were part of an Army patrol in Chingus area of Keri sector. Around 12.15 pm, Pakistani troops suddenly opened fire at them from across the border, sources said.
Though there have been stray incidents in the adjoining Nowshera sector of small arms fire from the Pakistan side on forward Indian positions for the last two-three days, unprovoked firing at such a scale, leading to casualties on the Indian side, has come after a month. On November 16, the Pakistani troops had resorted to mortar shelling in Shahpur and Degwar areas of Poonch, making the district administration order closure of schools in Gulpur and Nakarkot areas near the border as a precautionary measure.
At least a dozen people, including civilians and soldiers, have been killed in nearly 300 incidents of ceasefire violations along the border in 2017 — a sharp rise from the 228 such incidents last year. The escalation along the border had led to suspension of cross-LoC travel and trade on the Poonch-Rawalakot road through Chakan Da Bagh for nearly four months, besides migration of a large number of people from villages near LoC in Nowshera sector. Though travel and trade between two sides resumed last week, those who migrated are yet to return.
Sources attributed the ceasefire violation to a “growing desperation” on the Pakistan side to “push in armed terrorists” into India before closure of the mountain passes this winter. The security forces and the police have killed over 200 militants, including many top commanders, this year.