Srinagar: In a swift operation, the authorities on Tuesday rescued 217 students and their 15 teachers who had been trapped in three schools following intense mortar shelling by Pakistani troops in Nowshehra sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district. Several civilians too were shifted to safer locations, the officials said.
One Army jawan was killed and a civilian wounded in the Pakistani firing in the latest ceasefire violation in this sector, they said. The slain soldier has been identified as 24-year-old Jaspreet Singh, a resident of Talwandi village on Moga district of neighbouring Punjab. Another soldier was killed in the cross-LoC firing in Nowgam sector of Kupwara district, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the defence spokesman here said.
The Army officials said that the Pakistani troops violated the November 2003 ceasefire agreement four times during the day by targeting the Indian forward posts and civilian areas along the LoC with mortar bombs in Rajouri and Poonch districts. The Indian Army retaliated “strongly and effectively” to the Pakistani shelling, the officials added.
Reports from Rajouri said that the “intense” firing was going on at several locations including Kalsian, Sair, Bahwani, Namb and Jhangar of Nowshehra sector. Relief and rescue operation in the “interior inhabited areas” launched by specially deputed teams amid mortar bombs from across the LoC around 1 pm was wound up at 9.30 pm, Rajouri’s DC Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said. Intermittent firing and shelling has also been reported from a few places in neighbouring Poonch district..
In a separate incident, the Army troops shot dead two militants after they made a bid to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir from the PoK via the Gurez sector of Bandipore district, Col. Kalia said. “The terrorists backed by the Pakistani troops tried to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir in the Gurez sector but our troops foiled the infiltration bid and shot two terrorists dead. Three weapons have been recovered,” he said.
On Monday, one Indian soldier and an 8-year-old girl were killed and two civilians and a soldier wounded in ceasefire violations in various LoC sectors in Poonch, Rajouri and Baramulla districts.
In Islamabad, the officials said that two persons including a woman were killed and eleven other civilians were injured in the Indian firing in Sumahni and Nakyal sectors along the LoC in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Pakistan had on Sunday reported the death of its four soldiers due to drowning in Neelan River (called Kishan Ganga in Jammu and Kashmir) in PoK’s Athmuqam sector after their vehicle was allegedly fired upon by Indian forces in alleged ceasefire violation. One civilian was injured in the firing, they said.
The flare up along the LoC has continued even after India and Pakistan Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) spoke to each other over the hotline on Monday. While Pakistan's DGMO General Sahir Shamshad Mirza raised the issue of ceasefire violations in the backdrop of the death of four Pakistani soldiers, his Indian counterpart Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt rejected the Pakistani charge and said that all ceasefire violations were initiated by the Pakistani troops and that the Indian army reserved the right to retaliate appropriately. He also reiterated that the Indian army is sincere about maintaining peace and tranquility along the LoC.
Rajouri’s DC Choudhary, said that in a “swift and major operation”, the district administration along with the police rescued 217 students and 15 teachers from three schools in the wake of heavy mortar shelling along LoC in Nowshera sub-division. “Yesterday (Monday) the Pakistani firing and shelling remained restricted to Majakote sector of Rajouri but today (Tuesday) heavy mortar shelling started at various locations in Nowshehra sector at around 1 pm,” he told this newspaper over the phone.
He said that the students and teachers were trapped for more than six hours in Kaladi, Bhawani and Sair amid shelling from across the de facto border. “The government-run high school at Sair was badly damaged due to the shelling”, he said adding that bullet-proof vehicles were also pressed into service during the operation.
Reports from Rajouri said that the DC along with SSP Yougal Manhas, additional SP Atul Kumar and sub-district magistrate Harbans Lal rushed to Bhawani and launched the rescue operation in which more than 250 people mostly students were rescued. “The team of officers came under heavy shelling in Bahwani and had a narrow escape as shells landed few meters away from the school. Likewise 55 students and teachers had a narrow escape as the building came under direct hit of shells damaging its larger portion while classroom remained unaffected,” an official statement issued here said.
Following heavy shelling in the area, all schools in Nowshera and Manjakote sector have been closed till further orders. On Monday, the authorities had ordered closure of 16 schools in Manjakote sector of the LoC. Choudhary said that while more than 150 students have been shifted to camps, the others were handed over to their parents....