Pakistan Rangers setting ceasefire on fire (Jammu & Kashmir Newsletter)

Jammu, Oct 25 (IANS) Setting the ceasefire on fire, Pakistani troops have been violating the bilateral agreement signed by India and Pakistan in November 2003 with impunity since the beginning of this month.

The brunt of ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Rangers is being borne by residents of scores of villages along the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
This month, one paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) trooper was killed while 15 others, including six civilians and nine BSF troopers, were wounded because of unprovoked shelling and firing by the Pakistan Rangers.
Residents of SM Pur, Jasso Chak and Suchetgarh Kurian villages have left their homes, livestock and agricultural fields and moved to safer locations.
The intermittent exchanges of small arms firing has now changed into frequent use of 82 mm mortar shells, rockets and other heavy weapons by the Pakistan Rangers.
Many of these shells are exploding in civilian habitats.
A day after Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde made an aerial survey of the international border (Oct 22) along with state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Pakistan Rangers again fired mortar shells at over 50 places on the international border.
Villagers are saying these shells are exploding close to their homes and in their agricultural fields.
“It is dangerous to live inside our homes or venture into the fields. Even cattle are falling prey to the shelling. We have no option but to move out to save our lives,” said a villager of Jasso Chak in the Ramgarh sector of Samba district.
Some villagers moved back to their homes after assurances by the district administration and leaders of the ruling National Conference. Just two days after their return, frequent mortar shelling forced them to again abandon their homes.
Shinde, during a press conference in Samba Tuesday, told reporters the state government could build shelters for the residents of border villages.
Some villages in the Pargwal area coming under intense shelling are barely 400 metres from the international border.
Residents have accused the Pakistan Rangers of targeting civilian areas in R.S. Pura, Kanachak, Akhnoor, Arnia and other sectors of the border.
While the army guards the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, BSF is deputed on the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts of the Jammu region.
Omar has asked New Delhi to move beyond words in ensuring that peace returns to the border in the state and that Pakistan respects the ceasefire agreement that brought a modicum of normalcy in the lives of people living close to the border in divided Kashmir.
The chief minister also said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in fact addressing his home constituency when he rakes up the Kashmir issue during his current US visit.
Omar told reporters in Srinagar he is not sure whether Sharif has a hand in what is happening on the LoC and the international border or whether he is not in control of things in his country.
Following the renewed tension on the borders in Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi has put on hold the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO)-level talks with Pakistan.
Although nobody believes the two south Asian nuclear neighbours, India and Pakistan, are heading for another war, yet there is little doubt that people living close to the border in Jammu and Kashmir are facing a war-like situation.
If present low-key hostilities on the borders are not halted immediately, for innocent villagers living in Samba, Jammu and Kathua districts, it is already an undeclared war that has thrown their lives out of gear.
(Sheikh Abdul Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])