Uneasy calm along LoC; villagers reluctant to return

Uneasy calm along LoC; villagers reluctant to return

Agency News

Uri, Mar 4 : An eerie silence prevailed along the Line of Control (LoC) as Pakistani mortar guns remained quiet since Friday in north Kashmir, where ceasefire violation from the other side has forced about 300 families from many frontier villages to flee to safer places.

However, Pakistani troops on Monday morning yet again violated ceasefire by resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing from across the border targeting forward posts in Akhnoor sector in Jammu region. Meanwhile, security forces have barred journalists from going to villages near the LoC in Uri sector, where scores of people are still living, despite the ceasefire violation scare, to attend to their livestock.

Despite there was no ceasefire violation by Pak Army for the fourth successive day on Monday, people living in these frontier villages are too scared to go back, alleging that the government has completely failed to provide necessary security to them, including availability of underground bunkers to evade mortar shells and other artillery firing. The villages are praying for peace to return so that they can go back to their homes.

“Initially for two days we stayed in our houses, despite shelling from Pak Army, but when motor shells exploded outside our houses, we left. Many people from villages -- Madiya, Kundi Barjala, Dulanja and Kamalkote -- fled four days ago to safer places,” Nasir Ahmad (name changed), who is currently living with his distant relatives in the border town of Uri, said.

Alleging that they were left to fend for themselves during the ceasefire violation, he said no one from the civil administration or forces came to our rescue. “We were not evacuated by authorities, no one from the administration was there… we fled on our own,” he alleged.

An agitated Ahmad further alleged that the government completely failed to construct underground bunkers for them, making them venerable to Pak shelling. He said only women and children were evacuated to safer places, while one or two members of each family has stayed back to take care of their livestock. “We can’t leave our houses unattended as there are livestock which needs to be taken care of. So, only women and children, besides one male have moved out of our villages to Uri and other parts of the district for safety,” he said.

“We are worried for the people who have stayed back as they are in direct line of Pak fire. Had there been underground bunkers, we would have stayed together with our families without any fear,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Rafi, who along with his family of four, besides four other families, is living in two rooms of a government school in Uri. Rafi, who is a resident of Kundi Barjala, also alleged that non-availability of underground bunkers forced them to flee their village. “Scores of families from border villages have fled to safety due to ceasefire violation by Pak,” he added.

Hoping for peace to prevail at the Line of Control (LoC), Rafi urged both India and Pakistan to end hostility so that people on the both sides can live in their homes with dignity and honour.

Expressing concern over barring them from covering situation on the ground in these border villages, Veteran freelance photo-Journalist Sipra Das, based in New Delhi, said that despite taking permission from the Army beforehand, they were not allowed to visit Kamalkote on Sunday. “I hired a cab after taking permission from the Army, but when I reached Uri town I was not allowed to proceed further to Kamalkote and adjoining areas,” she said.

Ms Das said she was amused that her team was not allowed by the Army and everyone was passing the buck to one another. “The Army was asking to take permission from civil administration and the civil administration was saying that they have no jurisdiction over it,” she added. UNI