Border villagers scared in Poonch

Jammu: With rising incidents of ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC), residents of villages on the border in Poonch district are scared and apprehensive.

“They (border villagers) are fearing a collapse of the ceasefire agreement (reached in November 2003 between India and Pakistan),” said Aijaz Kazmi, a journalist in Poonch.

Tension between India and Pakistan has been mounting after Pakistani soldiers killed two Indian soldiers and beheaded one of them.
Villagers scared in Poonch
Ten ceasefire violations by Pakistan have taken place this year, while in 2012 the number was 117 against 61 in 2011. The firing by Pakistan across the LoC is mainly to cover to the infiltrating militants.

Hashim Din, 75, of Khari village near Poonch, about 250 km northwest of Jammu, told over phone: “Before the ceasefire agreement our lives were like those of animals. We had to frequently migrate to safer areas during firing across the LoC. The firing would kill people and our cattle and would damage our homes.”

He said due to heavy firing before 2003, they would not till their fields, which had turned barren. They lived in mud houses, which were cheaper to build, instead of concrete ones due to frequent firing.

Chand Mohammad, a 45-year-old farmer in Salotri village in Mendhar sector, close to areas that have witnessed recent hostilities between India and Pakistan said: “We are hesitant of sending our children to schools as their route is exposed to shelling.”

Children’s education, farming, cattle rearing and daily activities were disrupted before the ceasefire agreement.

Iqbal Khan, who lives near Sona Gali, where Pakistani troops intruded and killed the two Indian soldiers Jan 8, was worried about the ceasefire agreement collapsing. “We have restricted our movement and mostly stay indoors. Most of us (villagers) are avoiding sending children to schools,” he said.

A senior civil administration officer in Poonch, requesting anonymity, confirmed the fear and apprehension in people living near the LoC. “Locals in Mendhar sector, where firing happens daily after the Jan 8 incident, are scared. We are trying to imbue confidence among them,” he said.

“It was only after 2003 that we started farming, rearing cattle, sending our children to schools and experienced normal life. But now we fear that frequent firing will continue,” said Riaz Ahmad of Balnoi village near the LoC.

A senior army officer said on the condition of anonymity: “Acts of brutality by the Pakistani army is a worrisome issue. Violating the ceasefire agreement will be a major setback to mutual relationship. We are committed to abide by it.”


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