NATIONAL

Landmines play havoc along the LoC

Nowshera April 26. Despite the international movement against landmines, their use has drastically increased in Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past. Several people have died and many others have been injured in mine explosions over the past few years.

The de-mining operations launched after the troops amassed at the border were called back were not extended to the 740 km Line of Control. Since then, accidental mine explosions have taken a heavy a toll of civilians and security forces personnel in this part of the border belt.

The de-mining operations along the International Border too have not been risk-free. Two jawans were killed this week while trying to defuse a landmine in Makwal area, a few km from Jammu city. Last month, an Army captain and a jawan were killed while defusing a landmine in the RS Pura sector.

The situation is worse along the LoC. The use of mines increased after the escalation of India-Pakistan tensions following the December 13 attack on Parliament. Jhangar, Laam , Sunderbani, Bhawani, Kalal, Kerni, Balakote, Majakote and Bhimbergali are the heavily-mined areas while the most affected is the Rajouri-Poonch belt.

Although several areas are marked "danger zones", the mines sometimes slip away. Shepherds living near the LoC face the brunt as their animals stray into the danger zones. Mohd. Sultan, who lost his leg in a mine explosion, says, "these mines have been haunting us since 1947." A senior Army officer at the volatile Jhangar post in the Nowshera sector says, "there are countless mines on both sides of the LoC. We have erected barbed-wire fences in several places but it is impossible to de-mine the entire area".

Another Army officer, J.B.S. Yadava, says, "we are aware of the difficulties faced by the local people but the mines have been planted there mainly as deterrents for infiltration". He says the Army has proposed shifting the population to other areas. The rehabilitation of the victims is also difficult as there is hardly any specialised agency in the State.

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