Baramulla: There was no cross-border firing at the Line of Control (LoC) in Haji Peer sector of Uri on Sunday, providing some respite from the heavy exchange of gunfire and mortar shelling that began Saturday morning and continued throughout the day. However, the hundreds of people evacuated from their villages and put into school and college buildings in Uri are worried about their houses, cattle and other belongings they have left behind. Appealing to both India and Pakistan to make peace, displaced people of Churanda, Silikote, Tilawari, Thajal, Hathlanga and other villages said that the civilian population on the other side of the LoC has also lost property, and many houses in Khawajabanday, Doka, and Sarjiwar areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) have been damaged by Indian firing.
Laldin Ahmad of Churanda village said that 375 residents of his village have been moved out but more than 1,000 people are still in the village, unwilling to leave their cattle behind. An elderly woman of Silikote village said it was the first time that she had left her home. “I have seen a lot of firing at the border for decades, but this time both the forces used heavy mortars, due to which the local population is affected,” she said.
People staying in the government higher secondary school and the government degree college at Uri said that people in PaK were seen crying at deaths and injuries. There also seemed to be no electricity in the PaK villages for the past few days, as no lights in the houses were seen after dark.
Some locals said that both the armies fired artillery against each other, but no official has confirmed this.
The commander of the army’s 12 Brigade Uri, Brigadier YS Ahlawat, in a press conference at the brigade headquarters on Sunday afternoon said that on February 19, Pakistani forces violated the ceasefire and targeted Indian posts. He said the “unprofessional” Pakistan Army targeted the civilian population, due to which people have lost houses and other property. He said that after two days, the Pakistan Army again fired at army posts and civilian settlements. He said Indian Army’s “professional” troops retaliated and targeted several Pakistan Army posts.
Brigadier Ahlawat said that people in Uri have been moved out to shelters and the army has arranged food, medicines, sleeping bags and other necessities to them.
When asked why people were blaming Indian Army for using civilians’ houses as bunkers, Brigadier Ahlawat said that army bunkers are safer than civilians’ houses and such allegations are not true.
Meanwhile, state cabinet minister Abdul Haq Khan, National Conference leader and Uri MLA Dr Sajad, along with Deputy Commissioner Baramulla Dr Nisar Ahmad Naqash and SSP Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain, visited Uri and met people of seven affected villages who are now staying in the higher secondary school. The minister ordered officers to shift all people from the affected areas if required. SDM Uri D Sagar, SDPO Uri Syeed Javid Ahmad, and other officers accompanied the minister and briefed him about the current situation.