Army jawan, 3 civilians killed, 16 hurt; houses damaged, cattle perish

A man tries to remove remnants of his burnt motorcycle in Jeora Farm of R S Pura Sector, where number of ‘Kullahs’ were gutted in Pakistan shelling on Saturday.
A man tries to remove remnants of his burnt motorcycle in Jeora Farm of R S Pura Sector, where number of ‘Kullahs’ were gutted in Pakistan shelling on Saturday.

All schools on LoC, IB remain shut

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Jan 20: Pakistan army and Rangers continued to rain mortars and bullets in a number of forward villages on the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) for third consecutive day today, leading to martyrdom of another Army soldier and killings of three civilians besides injuries to 16 persons including two BSF and SSB jawans.
With this, death toll during last three days of mortar shelling and firing by Pakistan has reached 10 including six civilians and four security personnel.
Nearly 40,000 people have left their houses including 36,000 in Jammu district alone, from forward areas on the IB from Hiranagar to Pargwal sectors and took shelter either in the houses of their relatives and friends or relief centres, set up by the administration. All educational institutions falling within five kilometers radius of LoC and IB in five districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu, Samba and Kathua remained shut for second day today as there was no let up in tension on the borders.
Sources told the Excelsior that there were heavy casualties and huge infrastructural damages on Pakistan side in retaliatory shelling by the Indian troops both on LoC and IB and nearly one lakh people have deserted their homes across the border. Large number of posts and bunkers of Pakistan army and Rangers have been destroyed in retaliatory firing in which Pakistan has suffered heavy casualties, both fatal and non-fatal.
A mortar shell fell on Primary Health Centre (PHC) Garkhal on the IB near Akhnoor late last night causing extensive damage to the building and an ambulance parked inside it. However, staff and patients had very narrow escape in the explosion.
Health and Medical Education Minister Bali Bhagat told the Excelsior that ambulances have been deployed in all the hospitals falling along IB and LoC while Surgeons, Orthopedicians and Anesthetists were asked to stay on duty 24×7 in shifts to attend to the shelling and firing victims immediately to save their lives.
Bhagat said leave of all doctors and paramedical staff in 5 shelling hit districts has been cancelled and they have been asked to report back to their duties immediately.
An official note of the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, said 31,000 people out of total of 41,000 population in Arnia sector have migrated. In Suchetgarh, 5000 people have shifted to safer areas. It said 129 cattle have been killed and 93 injured in these two sectors while 72 houses have suffered extensive damage.
About 4,000 people have migrated from Ramgarh in Samba district and Hiranagar sector of Kathua district and left for safer areas.
Authorities in all three districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua have earmarked Government buildings including educational institutions, community halls and religious places as relief camp for the migrants but, according to sources, few people were turning up in the camps and majority of them have left for the houses of their relatives and friends.
Sources said another Army soldier attained martyrdom in Pakistan firing in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district this morning. He has been identified as Sepoy Mandeep Singh, 23, R/o village Alampur in Sangroor district of Punjab and is survived by his father Gurnam Singh.
Pakistan continued to rain mortars and bullets at regular intervals in RS Pura, Suchetgarh, Arnia, Kanachak and Pargwal sector on the IB and Krishna Ghati, Balakote and surroundings in Poonch sector on the LoC during the day today. However, no shelling and firing was reported from Ramgarh in Samba district and Hiranagar in Kathua district since early this morning. Nowshera sector in Rajouri district also remained calm today.
Two civilians were killed in Kapoorpur and Suchetgarh areas of RS Pura sector this morning after their houses were directly hit by mortar shells. They have been identified as Ghara Singh, 17, son of Ashok Kumar R/o Kapoorpur and Ghar Singh, 50, son of Kushnath Singh R/o Bera, Suchetgarh. Nine persons including a BSF ASI were injured in the shelling in RS Pura sector.
Another civilian Tarsem Lal, 35, son of Bansi Lal R/o Gajansoo was killed in the shelling while six others injured at Gajansoo and Kanachak.
There was panic among the border dwellers in RS Pura, Suchetgarh and Arnia sectors, where Pakistan continued shelling and firing for third consecutive day today though after brief halt.
“Shelling and firing stops for an hour and then starts again,” sources said, adding the people remained confined to indoors due to shelling but mortar shells in evening were hitting the houses and other structures of the people, causing extensive damage to the people. Number of cattle have also been killed and injured in Pakistan firing.
A number of structures in Jeora Farm in RS Pura sector were burnt after mortar shells exploded inside the hamlet. Several vehicles and other property of the villagers were damaged in the shelling.
Kanachak, Gajansoo, Garkhal and Pargwal in Jammu and Akhnoor sectors also faced intense shelling since last night, which continued during the day today at regular intervals.
Meanwhile, all educational institutions falling within five kilometers range of LoC and IB in Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts remained closed for second day today as mortar shells were landing all around the border villages. Sources said a decision of re-opening of the schools will be taken on Monday morning after fresh assessment of the situation.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh visited border villages this evening to assess situation prevailing along the International Border. He also met some of the people camping in relief camps and inquired facilities being provided to them. He assured the border dwellers that they will get enhanced compensations for all kind of losses.
On the LoC, Nowshera and Sunderbani sectors in Rajouri districts were calm today but Pakistan continued heavy shelling in Balakote, Krishna Ghati and surrounding areas of Poonch district.
With four killings today including three civilians and an Army jawan, number of deaths during last three days on borders has gone up to 10 including six civilians, two Army soldiers and two BSF jawans. About 60 people have been injured, some of them seriously.
Sources said losses on Pakistan side were very heavy, both in terms of casualties as well as infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Police today sounded a “red alert” and asked border dwellers to move out of their areas as the situation is “sensitive” in wake of continuous shelling by Pakistan troops.
“The administration has sounded a red alert across the area (Jammu region) and asked people to move out”, police said in an advisory.
It further said “villages on the border area of Jammu province are dark and deserted. The area is being continuously shelled. The people fled to safety”.
“Innocents are being killed for no fault of theirs. No doubt, in the present scenario, the situation is sensitive, the Government is alert and things are taken care of at the Government level”, it said.
The police said every Government has great responsibility towards their citizens and the State.
“All the Army, BSF and Police and other forces are fully prepared to deal with any eventuality but firing is still going on”, it said.
The police further cautioned people about sharing details on security and said: “The people are advised to keep lights switched off and share no information with strangers in person or in phone.”
“Do not share the location of strength of Army, BSF, Police and other security forces with anyone. Do not respond to the unknown numbers even if someone claims to be an army or police officer, ” it said.
The advisory further asked people to take adequate precautionary measures for their security.
“We must prepare ourselves for all kind of challenges and make arrangements for the personal security and for that all of us must take all precautionary measures”, it said.
People must keep their valuables safely and make arrangements for ration, water storage and making bunkers for personal safety so that in case of any eventuality, families can immediately shifted into bunkers, it added.
Meanwhile, nine persons injured today in Pakistan’s shelling and firing in RS Pura and Suchetgarh have been identified as BSF ASI Jarnail Singh, Sheetal daughter of Channa Ram R/o Samka, Vinod Kumar, 25, and his father Munshi Ram, residents of Suchetgarh, Sonia. 27, wife of Baldev Raj R/o Gulabgarh Basti, Vikas Kumar, 35, son of Bachan Lal R/o Abdal, Rattan Singh, 60, son of Raghunath Singh R/o Abdal, Narayan Dass, 50 son of Bhagmal and Kunti Devi, 35, wife of Saudhagar R/o Gulabgarh Basti.
Six civilians injured in Kanachak and Gajansoo included Krishan Lal, 12, son of Kolhu Ram and Sandokh Singh, 55, son of Tara Singh, both residents of Gajansoo, Billu, 42, son of Mansa Gujjar, Ram Krishan Bakshi, 65, son of Natha Ram and Radhey Baba, 32, son of Bansi Lal Baba, all residents of Kanachak.
A SSB Jawan Lallu Ram was also injured in Kanachak.