Shelling by Pakistan triggers scare in Jammu’s Arnia

Pakistan Rangers violate ceasefire pact, hitting civilian houses and crops; BSF retaliates; constable sustains minor injuries during the eight-hour skirmish between Indian and Pakistani troops

October 27, 2023 08:46 pm | Updated October 28, 2023 08:18 am IST - JAMMU

Villagers clean a bunker after firing by the Pakistan Rangers at the Arnia area of Jammu and Kashmir on October 27, 2023.

Villagers clean a bunker after firing by the Pakistan Rangers at the Arnia area of Jammu and Kashmir on October 27, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Uneasy calm and fear prevailed in villages near the zero line in the Arnia sector of Jammu after an eight-hour skirmish between Indian and Pakistani troops which left the 2021 ceasefire agreement hanging by a thread.

A Border Security Force (BSF) spokesman said constable Basava Raj sustained minor injuries in the hands. “His condition is stable. There was no other loss. The damage to material is being ascertained,” the BSF said.

It is for the first time Pakistan Rangers used mortar shells since the two countries renewed their pledge to abide by the 2003 ceasefire agreement in February 2021. Earlier, two BSF jawans were injured on October 17 when the exchange was limited to small fire only. 

The skirmish on Thursday started around 8 p.m., which saw civilian houses and crops being hit by Pakistani small fire and mortar shells, and ended on Friday.

“Our troops retaliated. The Pakistan Rangers extended their firing to target our adjacent border outposts, prompting retaliation from the forward defence posts in these areas in a befitting manner,” the BSF said.

Officials said mortar firing targeted the BSF’s border outposts and civilian areas, injuring a civilian, Rajni Devi, in Arnia town. The BSF said heavy machine gunfire was used by Pakistan Rangers during the ceasefire violation.

Put on alert

The BSF has been put on a high alert along the International Border in Jammu after the exchange of fire on Thursday. “The BSF continues to monitor the developments closely, while assessing the situation and remains alert to respond as necessary to ensure the safety and security of the border and its residents,” it said.

Meanwhile, scores of displaced families, including non-local migrant workers, returned to their border villages in Arnia on Thursday. “It is after six years there was firing from the Pakistan side,” Dev Raj Chowdhary, a sarpanch from Bulleh Chak village, said.

Officials said the fire and shells had damaged several houses of civilians and hit the standing crops near the zero line. Several schools and panchayat ghars were opened as shelters in R.S. Pura, Bishnah and Jammu.

Ekta, a local, said her kitchen was hit by Pakistani shelling. “Windows and glasses were smashed because of the Pakistani firing,” she said.

Deepak Kumar, another local, said the farmers fear venturing into the fields to harvest the standing crops. “There is a sense of fear. We can’t move freely any more,” Mr. Kumar said.

Rattan Lal Gupta, provincial president of the National Conference (NC), condemned the unprovoked shelling by Pakistan Rangers. “The second incident of truce pact violation in one week from the Pakistani side is a matter of great concern. People had to migrate and take refuge in temples and other places because the so-called bunkers made by the government have proven useless,” Mr. Gupta said.

The NC said war was not the solution. “Both the countries should shun the violation of ceasefire so that the poor people of both the counties live with peace, prosperity and happiness,” he added.

‘Bid to disturb peace’

The Army said there was constant endeavour from across the Line of Control (LoC) to disturb peace in Kashmir, a day after five militants were killed in a counter-infiltration operation in Kupwara.

“Continuous attempts of infiltration are being made. In the last eight months, we have had 10 such attempts in our divisional area of responsibility, which have resulted in the elimination of 27 terrorists and recovery of large quantities of warlike stores,” General Officer Commanding 28 Infantry Division, Major General Girish Kalia said.

The Thursday operation, in which five infiltrators were killed, was a befitting tribute to our infantrymen who have worked tirelessly for the last many decades to ensure that peace continues to prevail in the Valley, he added.

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