Uri shelling: villagers stuck between a rock and a hard place

27 February 2018

The Indian Army has launched a massive punitive action against Pakistan for its unprovoked shelling on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector, even as the people continued to flee their homes in vulnerable villages.

"The Indian Army in a strong, determined and definitive manner has retaliated on the LoC and ensure that Pakistan is yet again punished for this misadventure," Brigadier Y S Ahlawat, Commander of 12 Brigade in Uri, told the media.

The Indian Army said since 19 February, the Pakistan army has been continuously violating the ceasefire in the Uri sector.

"Displaying extreme cowardice and unprofessionalism, it has been targeting innocent villagers living along border and indiscriminately using mortar shelling, causing damage to the houses of civilians. In a befitting reply, Indian Army has retaliated accurately with heavy fire on Pakistan posts which were involved in ceasefire violations," said Brigadier Ahlawat.

Pakistan army has shelled several border villages including Balkote, Silikote, Tilwari, Churnda, Hatlanga and other neighbouring hamlets along the LoC. On Saturday, Pakistan army had made announcement on public address systems asking people living in border village to flee, triggering fear.

According to Firstpost, officials say many villagers are still trapped in their homes, unable to come out due to continued firing by Pakistani forces, which have targeted many villages along the de facto border in Uri for the first time in years.

The compartmentalisation of villages near the border by the Indian Army has not made it easier for villagers to escape to safer places.

"At least eight to ten villages along the LoC have been fenced by the Army. In our village, there is only one door, which is opened and closed by the Indian Army at their discretion. We requested them to throw it open but they didn't listen. I have never seen such a war-like situation here,'' Mohammad Mujeeb, a resident of Churunda, told Firstpost.

"The villagers have been evacuated to the Government Higher Secondary School at Uri. As a first responder on the ground the Army has swung into action and immediately provided much required succour and relief to the villagers," said Brigadier Ahlawat

The 12 Brigade commander said the Army has speedily extended medical facilities to injured villagers. "The local commanders on ground are personally monitoring safety of the people and extending all the assistance that is required on the ground. So far army has provided food medicine and water. Drinking water is very important during current conditions," he said.

Official figures reveal that around 7,000 people have been affected due to the cross-LoC shelling in the area. "Ambulance and bulletproof vehicle will also be made available to meet any exigency during any escalation of situation along LoC," said Javaid Mustafa Mir, J&K Minister for Disaster Management, Relief Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

Sub divisional magistrate (SDM) Uri, Dr Sagar D Doifode, said a free medical camp was established at the make-shift camp so that medicare facilities are made available round the clock. Moreover, a helpline with the telephone numbers has also been established to avail assistance in case of any eventuality.

"People of the valley especially those living near the LoC and International Border are the worst victims of cross-border shelling. Both the countries should end hostility for the sake of the human lives and start a sustainable dialogue to resolve issues," said Abdul Haq Khan, J&K Minister for Law, after visiting Uri.

The Army said they are confident of establishing peaceful and safe conditions at the earliest to ensure early return of the displaced people to their homes.

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