Amid intermittent small arms fire and shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s border district of Rajouri since Wednesday last week, the state administration under Governor Satya Pal Malik has alerted people living in at least 27 villages along the LoC in Nowshera sector for moving to “identified safe shelters’’ in case of any escalation.
On Saturday, a team of senior civil and police officials visited the affected areas to mitigate problems faced by the residents.
Rajouri Deputy Commissioner Aijaz Asad, who headed the team, told residents of Kalal, one of the villages affected by the cross-border firing and shelling, “Bunker toh aap ke banega hi, aur 100 per cent yeh kaam bahut jald complete hoga (bunkers are being constructed and this work will be completed soon). As a short-term measure, we have identified 30 shelters where people can easily go and stay comfortably in case the situation, God forbidding, takes such a turn. Arrangements for power and water is being done. We have identified all such things and are making all arrangements.”
Asad along with Rajouri SSP Yougal Manhas and other senior officers toured all border villages in Nowshera sector.
Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Sanjeev Verma, meanwhile, called Asad’s visit to border villages a “routine disaster management drill’’ in the wake of continued incidents of cross-border firing and shelling. There is absolutely no escalation on the border, he added.
Addressing the villagers, Asad said that sometimes a situation arises when one has to ask oneself what he or she has done for the country. “Iss tarah ke jab halat hotey hein, koi ladai jab ladee jati hai, toh housley se ladee jaati hai (whenever such a situation arises, the fight is fought with courage)…. My aim of telling you all this is not to make you think that there is something serious, but to have a forthright discussion to assure you that people of border areas are not alone. The district administration and the people, the state (administration), and the country are with them.”
Asad said that on Thursday, he received information about heavy shelling at Kalal, Baba Khori and other places. Immediately, he said, all bullet-proof vehicles in the district were sent to Nowshera sector and ambulances were ordered to remain on alert.
Asad denied having asked people in border villages to shift to safe places, and called it part of the routine procedure to identify places for stay of border villagers whenever there is cross-border shelling. “We had done this last year also, when there was heavy shelling along the LoC for many days,’’ he said, adding that this time too, shelling by Pakistan is going on in Nowshera sector for four or five days.
There are 91 villages situated between 0 and 5 km from the LoC in Rajouri district. Last year, in the wake of heavy mortar shelling from Pakistan for weeks, nearly 5,000 people had migrated to Nowshera and stayed at camps set up by the administration.
They were critical of the administration inadequate arrangements for their food, boarding and lodging, besides studies of their children.