"Security forces should carry on with a close vigil without lowering their guard till peace returns in the State"

Republic Day celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir progressed smoothly amid tight security arrangements and against the backdrop of an early morning ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops in Uri sector of the Valley.

General Officer Commanding of 19 Infantry Division Major General Anil Chauhan told a group of journalists at Baramulla that Pakistani troops initiated unprovoked firing at 0615 hours near Kaman Post, close to Aman Setu — the bridge used for trade across the LoC as well as travel between the Kashmir valley and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He said the three rocket-propelled grenade rounds were followed by intermittent small arms firing for three hours.

Major Gen. Chauhan said the scene of firing was close to a Pakistani post. “It could be speculated that elements inimical to the welfare of people, cross-LoC trade or maintenance of peace and tranquility along the LoC [opened the fire],” he said. Gen. Chauhan said the Indian security forces did not respond to the provocation.

This is the first ceasefire violation in Kashmir since the Director General of Military Operations-level talks between India and Pakistan last month.

No casualty

The Defence spokesman in Kashmir, Lt Col N.N. Joshi, later told The Hindu that no casualty had been reported from Uri or elsewhere. “We have taken up the matter with the Pakistani authorities through a hotline,” he said.

Cross-LoC trade and travel operations through all the three routes of Uri, Teetwal and Chakan-Da-Bagh have remained frozen for over a week since the Indian customs authorities and the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested a PoK-based driver and seized his truck on January 17, claiming that it was carrying 114 kg of contraband brown sugar.

With the stalemate continuing and the Centre having taken up the matter with Pakistan, 27 Kashmiri truck drivers and 48 PoK drivers are stranded on either side of the LoC at the Trade Facilitation Centres of Chakothi (PoK) and Salamabad Uri (Kashmir).

PoK authorities have refused to resume cross-LoC operations until the driver, Mohammad Shafiq Awan of Muzaffarbad, is returned with his vehicle. He has been booked under the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Act and remanded to police custody by a judicial magistrate.

In his address at the State’s largest Republic Day ceremony in Jammu, Governor N.N. Vohra expressed concern over the ceasefire violations and said the security forces would “continue to enforce vigil along the frontiers without lowering their guard till a peaceful environment emerges.”

“The repeated breach of the ceasefire agreement and the continuing attempts at infiltration across the International Border and the Line of Control in the past year have yet again disrupted normalcy and caused varied problems for our people who live in villages along the border. It is hoped that our neighbour shall respond positively to the initiatives which have recently been taken by the Government of India, to once again urge it to maintain calm,” the Governor said.

Pakistan denies charge

Meena Menon reports from Pakistan:

Pakistan military officials on Sunday denied any ceasefire violations on their part, along the LoC.