Forced to flee their homes, cattle and ready to harvest crops due to frequent shelling by Pakistan, the residents along the Line of Control are batting for construction of 'community bunkers' in their villages. For the thousands living in these vulnerable zones, fear creeps in when the sun sets as their hamlets come under intense shelling by the neighbour's army. Mortar marks on walls of houses and shops in the area are a testimony to the brute firing by Pakistani army targeting the civilian population. The Pakistan armyhad yesterday pounded civilian areas and forward posts along the LoC in Nowshera area with mortars, killing two civilians and injuring three others. The border dwellers are now batting for construction of community bunkers to safeguard themselves from the heavy cross-border shelling, which have seen a spike since 2002. Madan Lal (62) said he along with his five family members took shelter in an underground bunker set up by him near his house for 20 hours, before being ferried in a bullet-proof vehicle by police and housed in a camp in Nowshera. "It was the worst shelling along LoC in Nowshera since 2002. Hundreds of mortar shells were fired by Pakistan, especially targeting civilian areas and hamlets. It was raining shells," he said. With fear and terror writ large on his face, the farmer said, "We fled our houses, leaving behind the cattle and ready to harvest crops to save our lives. We took refuge in an underground bunker near my house for several hours." His wife Sudha said, "The mud bunker near our house saved our lives as shells damaged our house.
For border dwellers, such bunkers are like the bullet proof jackets." The couple said such bunkers could also help in keeping their cattle safe. Jangarh residents--Rajan Choudhary, Mohinder and Suresh Kumar-- also vouched for the usefulness of such bunkers for safeguarding lives. They said community bunkers should be constructed in each and every hamlet dotting the Indo-Pak border. Three civilians have been killed and five others injured in Pakistani shelling along LOC in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district on May 11 and 13. As many as 42 villages along the LoC have been caught in the crossfire recently. "Our village Pukharmi was hit by over 70 mortar shells in just 10 to 15 minutes. A shell hit our house. My wife Akhar Bi died in the attack," 40-year-old Haneef, who was injured in the attack, said. "If the government would have set up a bunker, my wife would not have died. The government has failed to keep the promise of setting up community bunkers for border dwellers," he said. Underground community bunkers have become like a "second home" for the border residents, with most of these being constructed by the locals on their own. The decision to construct community bunkers was taken by the Union government in December last year. The Jammu and Kashmir government had in 2015 submitted a proposal to the Centre for setting up of over 20,000 bunkers at a cost of over Rs 1,000 crore in 448 border areas in the state. "The proposal will cover a population of 4,02,455 living close to the border areas in districts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch," then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had said. The border dwellers also want the Narendra Modi-led Central government to deal with Pakistan with an iron hand. "Give them (Pakistan) a befitting reply so that they never dare to resort to even a single ceasefire violation in the future," a border resident Puran Chand said. After the Pakistani shelling, 270 people were evacuated from various areas along the LoC in Rajouri district to safer places. The government had last month said the Pakistani security forces had violated the ceasefire 268 times in the last one year. Nine perons were killed in these incidents. Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre had said some time back that between April 2016 and March 2017, the maximum of 88 violations were witnessed in November 2016 followed by 78 in October 2016 and 22 in March this year. The ceasefire between India and Pakistan came into force in November 2003.
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