Srinagar: Four Border Security Force (BSF) personal including an officer were killed and three others wounded in Pakistani firing and mortar shelling along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Samba district on Wednesday.
With these killings, the BSF has lost as many as eleven of its men in cross-border firing in J&K, so far, this year. This is the highest number of casualties the paramilitary force has suffered along the IB in a year in the last five years, official statistics reveal. According to the officials, fifty people including 26 civilians and the rest BSF and Army personnel have been killed in ceasefire violations along the IB and Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, so far, this year.
Giving the details of the latest violation, the officials of the BSF said that the Pakistan’s Punjab Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing targeting its border outpost in Ramgarh sector of the IB on Tuesday night. “The firing by Pakistani border guards in Chamliyal post area of Ramgarh sector started around 10.30 pm on Tuesday and continued till 4.30 am of Wednesday,” a BSF official in Jammu said.
BSF’s Inspector General (Jammu Frontier) Ram Awtar while confirming it said that the Pakistani firing was “totally unprovoked” and “in violation” of the November 2003 ceasefire understanding. “They resorted to unprovoked firing in Ramgarh sector. Four of our jawans including an assistant commandant were martyred. Three other jawans were injured,” he said.
The BSF identified its slain personnel as Assistant Commandant Jitendra Singh (34), Sub-inspector Rajneesh Kumar (32), Assistant Sub-Inspector I Ram Niwas (52) and Constable Hansraj Gurjar (28).
It said while ASI Ram Niwas, manning the 'morcha' (observation post), was hit first in the Pakistani firing, the three others were killed in the subsequent mortar shelling, as they were trying to evacuate the ASI.
Assistant Commandant Mr. Singh was a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan, SI Mr. Kumar belonged to Etah in Uttar Pradesh, ASI Mr. Niwas to Sikar and Constable Mr. Gurjar to Alwar in Rajasthan.
The BSF said that its men retaliated to the Pakistani firing and shelling “strongly and befittingly” using the same calibre weapons.
In Islamabad, the Pakistani authorities in their counter-charge said that it were the BSF which initiated firing after targeting civilian areas in Chirikot sector of the IB called Working Boundary by them.
India’s Acting Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh was summoned to Foreign Office in Islamabad to condemn the "unprovoked ceasefire violations" by Indian troops across the border, leaving, at least, one civilian dead.
Mohammad Faisal, who heads the South Asia wing in the Pakistan Foreign Office, summoned the Indian envoy and "condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violation". He told Mr. Singh that the “deliberate” targeting of civilian populated areas “is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws.” He also told Mr. Singh that the Indian government should allow the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) “to play its mandated role” in J&K.
This is second major clash between the facing troops along the IB this month despite Director General Military Operations (DGMO) of the two countries agreeing, on May 29, to implement the ceasefire pact of November 2003 in "letter and spirit" and a sector commander-level flag meeting between BSF’s Deputy Inspector General and Pakistan Rangers Brigadier) on the border itself on June 4 to ensure peace by "holding fire" along the 198-km long border. The 15-minute IG-Brigadier level meeting held at the Octrio Post in Suchetgarh area of the IB had decided to “develop confidence” between the two sides to evade breaking out of active hostilities in future.
The officials said that two BSF personnel including an Assistant Sub-Inspector, were killed and 10 persons, mostly civilians, were injured in heavy mortar shelling and firing from across the IB in Pragwal, Kanachak and Khour sectors in Jammu region on June 3. Earlier ten civilians and two BSF jawans were killed in the Pakistani firing and shelling along the IB in Samba and Kathua districts of J&K between May 15 and 23 following which thousands of families had fled their homes located in close proximity to the IB and shifted to safer locations.
Following identical statements issued in New Delhi and Islamabad after the DGMOs conversation on hotline, thousands of displaced border-dwellers started returning to their homes and hearth.
But on June 3, another violation took place even after the DGMOs of India and Pakistan had on May 29 agreed to "fully implement" the ceasefire agreement reached between the two sides in November 2003 in "letter and spirit" forthwith to stop border clashes.
The officials in Jammu said that there have been as many as 320 firing incidents along the IB so far this year, leaving eleven of BSF personnel dead and 37 others injured. Last year only 111 such incidents took place where as the figure stood at 204 in 2016.
A statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Wednesday alleged that the said that the Indian forces have carried out more than 1,100 ceasefire violations along the LoC and the Working Boundary (IB) so far this year resulting into the death of 29 civilians and injuries to 117 others.
"The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation," the statement said.
Meanwhile, J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has expressed deep anguish and grief over the death of four BSF personnel in latest incident of cross-border firing and shelling. She reiterated that there should be an end to active hostilities along the borders to protect lives and properties of border people who, she said, have been caught in a distressing situation of past few months which has put them to vulnerability.
She said that suspension of military operations against separatist militants during Ramzan provided the people much needed relief. She hoped that the same is extended to the borders to ensure an atmosphere of peace returns in the areas falling in their close proximity....