JAMMU, June 13: Four BSF personnel including an Assistant Commandant were martyred while five others were injured in targeted mortar shelling and firing by the Pakistani Rangers at forward area of Narayanpur near village Chambliyal in Ramgarh sector of Samba district in wee hours of this morning.
The latest incident of ceasefire violation by the Pakistani Rangers despite committing themselves to 2003 ceasefire agreement at DGMO level talks on May 29 followed by Sector Commander-level meeting with the BSF on June 4, has resulted into fresh wave of tension among the people along the International Border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, where eight BSF jawans and 10 civilians have been killed during the past less than a month besides several others were injured. Pakistan has also suffered huge devastation in the BSF retaliation.
Official sources told the Excelsior that a BSF team headed by ASI Ram Niwas was engaged in defence constructions by taking material to forward area of Narayanpur near Chambliyal in Ramgarh sector of Samba district late last night when the Rangers fired a flat trajectory weapon towards them, causing injuries to the jawans. The Rangers continued firing to delay evacuation of the injured BSF jawans including the ASI, who had been hit.
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Assistant Commandant Jitendra Singh along with other BSF jawans headed towards the post to rescue the injured security personnel and shift them to hospital. In the process, the Rangers fired mortars targeting the rescue party. A mortar shell exploded close to the rescue team and all the jawans including the Assistant Commandant were seriously injured after being hit with splinters of the mortar.
Additional BSF jawans rushed to the spot and evacuated the injured to hospital, where four of them including the Assistant Commandant succumbed to their injuries while five others were admitted for treatment. Their condition was stated to be stable.
The BSF jawans from other posts retaliated Pakistan’s shelling and firing very effectively, leading to heavy exchanges, which continued till early this morning.
Describing Pakistan shelling and firing as totally unprovoked, sources said the defence related constructions take place during ceasefire and there was nothing wrong in it.
The BSF martyrs have been identified as Assistant Commandant Jitendra Singh, 34, a resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan, Sub Inspector Rajneesh Kumar, 32, R/o Etah, Uttar Pradesh, ASI Ram Niwas, 52, R/o Sikar, Rajasthan and Constable Hansraj Gurjar, 28, a resident of Alwar, Rajasthan.
Injured admitted in the hospital have been identified as Sub Inspector N Jantar Singh and Constables Susen Dass and Vikas Dabat.
SSP Samba Anil Magotra and other senior civil and police officials visited the border villages in Samba district this morning to restore confidence among the villagers, who were panicky after ceasefire violation by Pakistan anticipating that the neighbouring country might again target the civilian areas.
In fact, sources said, people living along entire border belt from Lakhanpur to Akhnoor mostly confined themselves inside their houses during the day fearing Pakistan shelling and firing again on the civilian areas.
Pakistani Rangers had targeted civilian areas of Hiranagar, Samba, Ramgarh, Arnia and RS Pura in the middle of May and Akhnoor and Pargwal early this month in which four BSF jawans and 10 civilians were killed. With today’s martyrdom of four BSF personnel, the number of BSF martyrs in less than a month has gone up to eight.
Meanwhile, Additional DG BSF (Western Command) KN Choubey reached here this morning for assessment of the situation prevailing along the borders.
Speaking to reporters after wreath laying ceremony of four martyrs at BSF Headquarters at Paloura, Choubey said the BSF has maintained sanctity of the ceasefire along the frontier but Pakistan “unfortunately” has not. He declared that the troops were prepared and border dominance would be maintained.
Terming the killing of four BSF personnel in firing by Pakistan Rangers last night as “betrayal”, Choubey said what the neighbouring country does is its business and but “how we respond” to the attack is “our job”.
Choubey also said the BSF would lodge a protest with the Pakistani side over the incident.
“We are always prepared. Ceasefire or no ceasefire. There is no let up in border domination and there is no letup in border surveillance,” Choubey said.
The officer, who paid tributes to the four BSF personnel killed, was replying to a question on whether the border guarding force was caught off guard.
Every instrument required to protect the territorial integrity of the border is being maintained regardless of ceasefire or no ceasefire, he said.
Asked about the trust level with regard to Pakistan, which has violated truce agreed at the DGMO level and Sector Commander level meetings, the BSF ADG said ceasefire was always a bilateral decision.
“There was a meeting between our sector DIG and the counterpart’s designated officer and it was decided that there will be ceasefire. We have maintained the sanctity of the ceasefire. Pakistan has not. It has violated it,” he said.
Asked whether it was a betrayal by Pakistan, he said it was very “unfortunate” as the ceasefire announcements are to be honoured.
“We have honoured it and Pakistan has not honoured it. And what Pakistan does is Pak’s business and how we respond to the betrayal is our job,” he added.
Asked whether the deaths of jawans would be avenged, Choubey said “what is going to unfold in our operational preparedness is something that I am not going to share”.
“But we will suffice to say that we will maintain the dominance and the territorial integrity,” he added.
Asked whether BSF will lodge a protest with Pakistan, he said it would.
To a question about Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) carrying out the attack, he said it is too early to come to that conclusion.
“Right now we are only concerned about such a gross violation of ceasefire when the meeting took place on their request. For us the main concern is lack of credibility in the request for ceasefire”, he added.
On May 29, the DGMOs of India and Pakistan agreed to “fully implement” the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit” forthwith to stop border skirmishes in J&K.
Last month, thousands of people residing along the IB in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts had to flee their homes following intense shelling from Pakistan between May 15 and May 23 which left 12 people dead, including two BSF jawans and an infant, and scores of others injured.
After the DGMOs of the two countries spoke to each other, hope rekindled among border residents who had started returning to their homes but the latest incident triggered fresh concerns among them.
On June 4, the border-guarding forces of India and Pakistan met at the Octroi post here and held a 15-minute meeting during which both sides decided to “develop confidence” between them.
The Pakistani side gave an assurance that they would not initiate any cross-border firing and the BSF reciprocated by saying that it would only retaliate when provoked.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon, a wreath laying ceremony was held for four martyrs at BSF Headquarters at Paloura in which BJP MLAs Bali Bhagat, Chander Prakash Ganga and Gagan Bhagat, Director General of Police (DGP) Dr SP Vaid, Additional DG BSF KN Choubey, IG BSF, Ram Awatar, IGP Jammu Dr SD Singh and Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Hemant Sharma among others paid rich tributes to the martyrs.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed deep anguish and grief over the killing of four BSF personnel in Pakistani shelling in Ramgarh sector of Samba today.
Paying rich tributes to the martyred personnel, she reiterated her demand for cessation of hostilities along the borders to protect lives and properties of border people who, she said, have been caught in a distressing situation of past few months which has put them to vulnerability.
Mehbooba said the suspension of operations elsewhere in the State has given the people a sigh of relief and hoped the same is extended to the borders and an atmosphere of peace returns to these areas which had prevailed for more than a decade due to the peace efforts of both the neighboring countries in 2003 around.
The Chief Minister has extended her sympathies to the bereaved families while praying for peace to the departed souls, said a statement.