Borders on Fire Again, Villagers Trapped
SRINAGAR: As blazing machine guns and mortars continue to create terror along the Line of Control, authorities in Pakistan on Saturday, using public address system, asked residents of villages in north Kashmir’s Uri to vacate their homes.
Villagers of Silkote and Churanda near the Line of Control heard announcements from across the de facto border in north Kashmir on Saturday, asking them to leave their homes, officials said, even as the armies of India and Pakistan continued firing at each other’s locations.
“The announcements created panic among the residents as firing has been going on in the area since last week. The situation is tense and many villagers have been shifted out of their homes as a precautionary measure,” deputy commissioner of Baramulla, Dr Nasir A Naqash, said.
A senior police officer told The Citizen that Pakistan targeted residential areas along the Line of Control in Uri using machine guns and mortars which resulted in damage to five residential houses even as the residents are moving to safer places.
“Heavy exchange of artillery has been going on between the two sides since morning. Our priority is to evacuate local population in Uri living near vulnerable areas to safer places. Bad weather is impacting the evacuation process,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
The deputy commissioner said dozens of vehicles including ambulances have been pressed into the service to evacuate civilian population, “Nearly 100 people have been taken to safer locations from morning and the process is underway,” he said.
The civil administration in Uri has established a control room in the area for affected people. “Due to continuous firing, some villagers are trapped in Silkote and Churanda villages but we are making all out efforts to shift them to safer places,” the police officer said.
The escalation along the Line of Control and International Border comes amid fresh appeal by the civilian government in Jammu and Kashmir led by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who has urged the BJP, her coalition partner ruling the Centre, to start a dialogue with Pakistan.
Nearly dozen civilians, including a minor girl, and number of security personnel have been killed on this side of Kashmir during skirmishes between the armies of the two nuclear armed countries in the first two months of this year.
In a recent statement, a civil society formation in the state also called upon India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue process so that the three decade old turmoil, which has come at an immense human and economic cost for Jammu and Kashmir, can be brought to an end.
However, New Delhi has flatly refused to start any dialogue process with Islamabad unless that country stops sponsoring terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir, a charge strongly denied by Pakistan.