10,000 villagers flee J&K border areas as Pak shelling intensifies

06 January 2015

Pakistan seems bent on giving India a New Year hangover of epic proportions. In yet another incident on the Jammu & Kashmir border, Pakistani troops targeted over 60 hamlets and scores of border posts in heavy overnight shelling in Kathua and Samba districts, with mortar shells landing deep inside Indian territory.

Nearly 10,000 people have fled from border villages after the latest bout of ceasefire violations by Pakistan, which since New Year's eve has left four Indian jawans and a woman dead along with five Pakistani soldiers.

About 6,000 civilians in Kashmir fled from their homes late on Monday alone as fighting along the 200-km border moved to civilian areas, said Shantmanu, the divisional commissioner of Jammu region. About 4,000 left after fighting began last week.

"We had a narrow escape and there is a war-like situation," Sham Kumar, 54, from Sherpur village, told Reuters. "Pakistani troops are using long-range weapons. It is the first time we have seen such intense shelling." Kumar said he left his village after a shell landed in a school about 3.5 km from the border.

All this is apart from the interception of a Pakistani boat off the Gujarat coast in the wee hours of the New Year; whose four-man crew blew up themselves and the boat rather than surrender. Despite Pakistani denials, it was patently an explosive-loaded terror boat.

The violence comes days before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit India. President Barack Obama is also due to visit India later this month as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. 

Last week, defence minister Manohar Parrikar warned that India would retaliate with double the force if Pakistan continues to violate the ceasefire which was agreed upon in 2003.

In August, India called off talks with Pakistan after Islamabad insisted on consulting Kashmiri separatists ahead of the dialogue. And in October, nearly 20 civilians were killed in both countries as cross-border violence escalated to its worst in over a decade.

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