SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Monday witnessed a ruckus over the Army and civilians casualties caused in the latest ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC), leading to the adjournment of the House.
Four Army soldiers including a captain were killed and two others and a BSF trooper and two civilians injured in the Pakistani firing in Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri district and Shahpur sector in neighbouring Poonch district on Sunday. The cross-LoC firing was reported also from Manjakote area of Rajouri and at a couple of places in Poonch during the day.
The Army had said that the Pakistani troops used small and medium automatic weapons and mortar guns to target the Indian forward posts and civilian areas in these sectors. It also said the Indian troops retaliated “strongly and effectively” to “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing by the Pakistani troops, using the same calibre weaponry. The Pakistani authorities had reported one civilian death and injuries to two children in the Indian firing in Haveli (Poonch) area on their side of the de facto border.
In view of tensions and to prevent harm coming to students and teachers, the district authorities ordered closure of 84 schools located in close proximity to the LoC in Rajouri for three days. “We’ve closed 84 schools for three days as a precautionary measure. We’ve also deputed teams to assess the loss to properties and livestock in the Pakistani firing in the district,” said Rajouri’s Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary.
The current spell of ceasefire violations began on January 18 and since as many as ten Army and BSF personnel and seven civilians have been killed and many others wounded. On Sunday, Captain Kapil Kundu, a resident of Ransika village in Haryana’s Gurgaon district, Havildar Roshan Lal (42) of J&K’s Samba district, Rifleman Subham Singh (23) of J&K’s Kathua district and Rifleman Ramavatar (27) of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh were killed in the Pakistani firing in Rajouri’s Bhimber Gali sector. Two teenage civilians Gulnaz Akhter (15) and Yasin Arif (14) were injured in Islamabad village of Bandi Chacian sub-sector in LoC’s Shahpur sector of Poonch earlier during the day.
The officials said that the Pakistani army started indiscriminate firing in Rajouri’s Balakote sector on Sunday afternoon resulting into the on-the-spot death of Captain Kundu and three other soldiers and injuries to Lans Naik Iqbal Ahmed. Another ceasefire violation was reported from Bandi Chacian sub-sector of Poonch in which one Army jawan Sepoy Kishore Kumar and two teenage civilians sustained injuries. In yet another violation in Sunderbani area of Rajouri, BSF’s ASI Ajab Singh was injured. Cross-LoC firing was reported also from Bhawani and Lam sectors but without causing any casualties. “The firing from both the sides stopped at around 7.45 pm”, said J&K’s minister for parliamentary affairs, Abdur Rehman Veeri.
While the deaths and destruction caused by the cross-LoC firing has set off anger in entire border belt, the State Assembly on Monday witnessed pandemonium after the opposition members led by National Conference (NC)’s Devinder Singh Rana jumped into the Well to protest over the fatalities. This was followed by another NC member Altaf Kaloo’s yelling that a 22-year-old youth has been injured in the Army firing in the Valley’s Kulgam area. This added to vehemence of the opposition members who began chanting anti government slogans like ‘Modi sarkar hai hai’, ‘PDP-BJP sarkar hai hai’ and ‘RSS sarkar hai hai.”
The BJP MLAs and independent member Pawan Gupta responded by chanting anti Pakistan slogans in House. On this NC’s Rana took a jibe at them by asking ‘tuhmari chappan inch wali chatee kahan gayyi (where has your 56 inch chest gone)?”
Speaker Kavinder Gupta made repeated appeals to the members to calm down and resume their seats but in vain. Amid ruckus, he adjourned the House for ten minutes.
While speaking to reporters outside the House, BJP’s MLA Ravinder Raina who represents Nowshehra constituency of Rajouri, one of the worst hit in the Pakistani firing in recent weeks, said that it was high time for Indian Air Force to come forward and bombard Pakistan “as they can’t understand the language of diplomacy and talks”. He said, “The way Indian (Army) posts are being made target by Pakistan is not acceptable to us. The IAF should be given full authority and all the terrorists’ places in Pakistan should be targeted by it (sic)”. He added that Pakistan was a nation “which never understands anything unless we take the bold step of allowing our Air Force to take a lead step and bombard the terrorist places in Pakistan”.
Later the State government while making a statement in the House said that dialogue and reconciliation are only way to restore peace along the borders and in the mainland in Jammu and Kashmir. It assured the members that all possible measures to avoid loss of life and damage to property in the cross-LoC firing are being taken by it. “Our stand is that dialogue and reconciliation is the only way to restore peace,” said Veeri while responding to the concern expressed by the members over the loss of life and damage to the property due to recurrent incidents of cross-border firing in the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri and other parts of the State.
He said the process of reconciliation initiated by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vaypayee in 2003 needs be taken forward for everlasting peace in the State.
He said that the district administrations in Rajouri and Poonch are taking all possible measures to avoid loss of life and property. He said alternate arrangements for boarding and lodging have also been put in place for the affected population.
Leader of Opposition in the House and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, called for a resolution to be adopted by the House urging that the people of Jammu and Kashmir demand both the governments to initiate the dialogue process so that peace is restored along the borders and within the mainland.