Omar deputes a team of Ministers as Pakistan shelling creates panic on International Border in Jammu

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday urged the Centre to use tough options to stop the Pakistani troops’ ceasefire violations across the border. The intense shelling at 25 spots on the International Border (IB) caused panic among the population even as a team of Ministers was deployed to the forward areas in Jammu, ahead of the Union Home Minister’s scheduled visit on Tuesday.

A Border Security Force (BSF) official and a J&K policeman have sustained injuries in Pargwal and Kanachak areas, close to the IB, as the Pakistani troops used small arms fire, rockets and 82-mm mortar at several places on Sunday night. Authoritative sources said that ceasefire violation took place at 25 spots all along the border in Kathua, Hiranagar, Samba, Pargwal, Kana Chak, Arnia, RS Pora, Akhnoor and Rajouri. Shells exploded in residential areas and at least one missile remained unexploded at Pargwal village. However, there was no major damage to life or property.

Sources said that the shelling led to panic among residents of several villages who were preparing to migrate to safer places. Sixty-five families of Suchetgarh village in Samba district fled to the district headquarters late on Sunday night. Officials said that a school building was turned into a rehabilitation camp for them.

Informed government sources told The Hindu that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked his National Conference colleagues Devender Singh Rana (MLC) and Surjit Singh Salathia (MLA) to immediately rush to Samba and Hiranagar villages and take stock of the situation. Both of them have reached Samba. On Mr. Abdullah’s direction, a team of Ministers, comprising Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and three other Ministers, namely Sham Lal, Raman Bhalla and Ajay Sadhotra, was on way from Srinagar to Jammu. Sources said that the Ministers would fan out in different border areas and interact with the people and the officials.

Mr. Abdullah will join the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde who is scheduled to tour Samba and Hiranagar areas on Tuesday, weeks after the decade’s first fidayeen attack on police and military formations in that area. Four soldiers, four policemen, two civilians and three militants had died in the attack on September 26.

Omar pleads harsh measures

Mr. Abdullah talked tough at the Police Commemoration Day function at Zewan, on outskirts of the summer capital, asking the Central government to take strong arm measures if Pakistan failed to stop the shelling. At the same dais, where Mr. Abdullah had announced “withdrawal of J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act” on this occasion in 2011, he expressed his government’s and peoples’ solidarity with the security forces and paid rich tributes to the soldiers sacrificing their lives for the country.

Mr. Abdullah described it as disappointing that even after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharief in New York last month, the troops from across the border had not stopped violation of the November 2003 ceasefire. He said that even the meeting of the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries, “that was the only substantive outcome of that meeting”, had not taken place. He said that India had the best of competency to retaliate the aggression at the border but her concern for the civilian population across the IB and Line of Control (LoC) was holding its options back. “Obviously, Government of India will have to adopt the tough options if the shelling did not stop in response to the soft options”, Mr. Abdullah asserted.