Rangers firing target civilians; couple injured

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Oct 1: A couple was seriously injured when Pakistani Rangers directly targeted the civilians in heavy firing opened by them on the International Border at forward village of Chalariyan near Chechwal in Samba sector this afternoon.
The Rangers had during past couple of months opened firing at Chechwal thrice targeting BSF jawans besides men and machinery engaged in uncovering underground tunnel dug by Pakistan authorities inside the Indian territory, which was detected on July 27.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Pakistani Rangers started firing at 5.15 pm at Chalariyan near Chechwal targeting civilians, who were working in their fields in the forward areas. The bullets hit couple Kulwant Singh son of Rumal Singh, a Special Police Officer (SPO) and his wife Krishna Devi causing them serious injuries.
Initially, the Rangers started firing with heavy weapons, sources said and added that the BSF jawans retaliated after which firing stopped from Pakistan side.
The civilians from forward areas of Chechwal evacuated the injured risking their lives amidst the firing. They were shifted to District Hospital, Samba, where they were given emergency treatment and then referred to Government Medical College (GMC) Hospital in Jammu in view of their serious condition.
The couple had sustained gun shots in abdomen and back while cutting grass in the fields.
This was for the first time in Chechwal after the detection of the underground tunnel that the Rangers directly opened firing on the civilians working in their fields in the forward areas, triggering fresh wave of panic among the civilians putting up in the border villages.
Deputy Commissioner, Samba, Mubarak Singh said the Additional DC and Assistant Commissioner Samba have been rushed to the hospital to help in treatment of the Injured. Rs 10,000 have been released in favour of the each injured, he said, adding that Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Pradeep Gupta also spoke to him and inquired condition of the injured and situation prevailing on the borders.
He said the officials of civil and police authorities were in touch with the border villagers to restore confidence among them.
DIG BSF JS Oberoi said the firing was totally unprovoked. He added that the BSF retaliated to silence the Rangers’ guns. The firing continued till 7 pm.
Mr Oberoi said the BSF pressed its bullet proof vehicles to evacuate injured civilians from the site of firing. The BSF vehicles shifted the injured first to Samba hospital and then to the GMC Jammu, he added.
The DIG BSF said they would lodge a very strong protest with the Rangers on their totally unprovoked firing on the civilians, which can’t be tolerated.
However, some civilians in the forward village resented delayed action by the BSF in evacuating civilians from the site of firing. They said the civilians kept lying in the fields for about half an hour before they were evacuated.
Reports received here said there was panic among the villagers of Chalariyan and adjacent border areas of Chechwal in Samba sector after direct firing by the Rangers on the civilians. Earlier, the Rangers had been targeting the BSF posts in the incidents of firing. Though the civilians had been stranded a number of times in the fields during Pakistani firing, this was for the first time that the Rangers opened firing on the civilians after their mischief of digging tunnel inside the Indian territory was exposed by the civilians and the BSF.
The border villagers had been cultivating fields in the border areas after the ceasefire agreement had come into force between India and Pakistan in November 2003. Since then, there were very few occasions when the civilians were injured in Pakistan firing.
However, today’s incident of direct firing has reminded the villagers of pre-ceasefire agreement days when exchange of firing between Indo-Pak troops had been a regular feature.
“We are frightened. The villagers had been cultivating fields right up to the Zero Line as there had been no firing on us. However today, the Rangers opened direct firing on the civilians, causing them injuries”, said Ranjeet Singh, a villager from Chalariyan, who accompanied the injured to hospital. He regretted that the BSF jawans didn’t come to the rescue of the injured civilians in their evacuation.
This was third incident of firing in Chechwal area after detection of the tunnel. In previous two incidents of firing by the Rangers, the BSF forward posts were targeted. The security personnel had retaliated effectively. This was for the first time when the Rangers targeted the civilians directly giving them no chance to escape.
The villagers said their working in the fields in forward areas could be badly impacted by today’s incident of firing by the Rangers.
It may be mentioned here that the Pakistan authorities had dug a tunnel about 540 meters inside the Indian territory at Chechwal to push infiltrators into this side along with arms and ammunition and facilitate smuggling of narcotics. A farmer had detected the tunnel on July 27 when he saw the land having caved in at three straight points in his fields at Chechwal leading up to the border.
The BSF and Geological Survey of India later unearthed the well dug tunnel, which opened up at village Chechwal about 540 meters inside the Indian territory. The BSF then pressed its men and machinery to uncover the tunnel from border fencing to Zero Line to expose Pakistan as the tunnel had originated from across the border.
The Rangers had opened firing recently to stall work by the BSF. Sources said even today’s firing was also aimed at preventing the BSF from carrying out further work on uncovering of the tunnel, which had been dug about 20 to 25 feet below the earth.

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