SRINAGAR: Eleven villages in Jammu and Kashmir’s Balakote are being pounded by Pakistani mortar shells and guns for almost 24 hours now. The toll – six dead and 10 injured, all of them local villagers. Among the dead was a 12-year-old boy and a 40-year-old woman. The Indian forces have been retaliating.
Firing and shelling from Pakistani troops continued through the night. Heavy firing had started around midnight and continued till 3 am. Since morning, the Rangers have been using guns.
Three villages — Shahpur, Mandhar and Kerni — bore the brunt of it, but the administration has asked people of all border villages to stay indoors. The Deputy Commissioner of Poonch, Nisar Ahmed Wani, said there was no question of evacuating the people till the firing stopped.
“There was very heavy shelling from Pakistan – one shell hit a vehicle in which seven people were travelling. Our sarpanch (headman) was in the same vehicle and he was killed on the spot,” said Rasheed Ahmad, one of the injured from Balakote village.
Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who visited the injured at the hospital in Jammu today, said, “Pakistan does not understand the ground situation… Civilians getting killed is unacceptable. The firing should stop, otherwise the (Pakistan) will face the consequences.”
Pakistan, he said, was a “failed state” which was targeting civilians to “keep their morale up”.
The ceasefire violations began in Poonch and Rajouri sectors yesterday even as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent his greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day and called for amicable relations between the two countries.
In the Sabjian sector – which witnessed the worst shelling over the last week — three people were injured on Saturday morning.