Raining shells shatter peace in Kashmir border village

Churunda (Jammu & Kashmir): Churunda village near the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is home to about 160 people. The villagers have found the peace shattered since Oct 3 when shells started raining here from across the border from Pakistan.

Nearly 104 km from summer capital Srinagar, Churunda village sits near the LoC in the Uri sector.

People either entering or leaving the village have to record their names and addresses at the gate near the entrance, manned by the Indian Army.

The LoC fencing, made of coils of concertina wire, forms the other extreme end of the village.

Life was going on smoothly in Churunda village, thanks to the ceasefire agreement signed by India and Pakistan in November 2003.

File photo

That normalcy now lies shattered.

Three villagers were killed in Churunda Oct 16, when Pakistan rangers violated the ceasefire and fired artillery shells towards the village.

“Nobody dares come to our village since Oct 3, when the first shells fell in our village. We lost three persons because of this shelling and it has been since intermittently continuing. We are totally shattered. The authorities must do something to stop this,” said Abdul Rashid Khatana, 75, the village headman.

Bashir Ahmad Khan, 45, another villager, said rations and medical supplies to the village remain disrupted after the ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

“No government official has come to our village after the shelling. We are running short of rations, medicines and other essentials,” Khan said.

Major General Bipin Rawat, general officer commanding (GOC) 19 Mountain Division, says Indian troops have returned the fire after Pakistan declined a request for a flag meeting and continued with intermittent violations of the ceasefire.

“After they violated ceasefire for the first time last month, we requested for a flag meeting to defuse the tension. They have not agreed to our request, saying they have not violated the ceasefire. We returned the fire, but our main aim is to ensure that the ceasefire is observed in the area so that the villagers living on the two sides of the LoC live a normal life. Further, we do not want to expand the ceasefire violations in the area”, the GOC said.

The GOC also said violating the ceasefire was a strategy adopted by the Pakistani troops to infiltrate guerrillas into India before snowfall closes mountain passes that lead to the Valley.

As the two armies exchange fire, the people of Churunda live on the edge, literally, so close to the LoC.

by Sheikh Qayoom (IANS)

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