Guns fall silent, but border villagers refuse to return home
The guns have fallen silent along the border, but residents of frontier villages who were forced to flee their homes due to the continual violence refuse to return, fearing that this is just a lull before another round of hostilities.
“We have heard that there has been no firing from across the border in our area for past few days, but people here are afraid to return as they fear that Pakistan can once again start targeting the civilian areas as it did a few days ago,” Sham Lal (42), a resident of Hamirpur village, said.
Over two dozen “unprovoked” ceasefire violations by Pakistan have been reported after the Army announced that it carried out surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control.
Bearing the brunt of the firing and shelling from across the border, thousands of residents from frontier villages in the Jammu region have been forced to seek shelter at safe camps set up by the administration.
“We want to return to our homes and tend to our crop and cattle, but we cannot take chances with our lives as we do not know when the Pakistani army will start shelling again,” said 54-year-old Sheela Devi, who along with six members of her family, has taken shelter at a government school in Khoura.
The state government says several people go to their homes during the day but return to the camps during the night.
“There are certain camps from where the people have returned to their homes, but there are others from where people are reluctant to go back. They go to villages during the day to tend to their cattle, and return at night,” Jammu Divisional Commissioner Pawan Kotwal told a news agency.
“There has been relative calm on the Line of Control and the International Border. Since on Saturday, there has been no report of ceasefire violation by Pakistan. It was on Saturday that an Army man was injured in one such violation in Poonch,” an army officer said.
Breaking two days of lull, Pakistani troops had on Saturday resorted to ceasefire violation on a forward post along LoC in Poonch district, injuring an Army man.
Amid heightened tension, there was no violation of the ceasefire anywhere in the state on October 6 and 7.
The lull in the hostility however, is being seen as a ploy by border residents.
“We will return once we get full assurance from the centre and the state that we won’t be targeted again. We don’t know whether this lull is aimed to bringing us back to our villages and then making us the target,” Devi said.