May 2002 News

Pak shelling flattens entire village

23 May 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

PANSAR (HIRANAGAR SECTOR): Though a direct war between India and Pakistan has not yet begun, a small village Pansar, located about one and a half kilometer short of the international boundary in Hiranagar sector has been reduced to a rubble in intense mortar shelling by Pakistan army. All 53 houses accommodating an approximated population of 300 were completely burnt and reduced to ashes as they caught fire in mortar shelling and tracers, fired by Pakistan troops at 12 noon yesterday. An EXCELSIOR correspondent, who visited Pansar today, saw the village flattened with smoke still arousing out of the burning goods and crops of the people. Alongwith houses, standing crops of the people were also burnt in several acres of land. Manyari, a village adjacent to Pansar has also lost half of its houses in the mortar shelling, carried out almost simultaneously by Pakistan army. Following mortar shelling in the two villages, which took place for the first time since 1971 Indo- Pak war, the entire population of forward villages in Hiranagar sector has migrated to safer areas taking the number of migrant families to 2209. Seventy years old Balwant Singh, weeping at a place where his house existed till yesterday morning, said ‘it all started at the stroke of 12 noon when a mortar bomb fell on the house of his neighbour Raj Pal and exploded with a big bang. And, then suddenly, the shells started raining on the village’. ''All the people including women and children deserted their houses within no time and started running towards safer areas in adjoining Lachhipur. While running, we saw the sky-rocketing flames emanating from our houses, where we had stored everything we could purchase in our life'', Balwant Singh, whose son Kuldeep Singh was hit by splinters of the shells and injured, narrated. Only a Hanuman temple and a Government primary school building, whose structures were concrete, had survived Pakistan’s shelling and stood testimony that a village existed at Pansar. Mool Raj and Rano Devi, a middle-aged couple were the worst sufferer of the shelling as the goods including golden and silver ornaments, a bed and furniture which they had stored in their house to give it in dowry to their daughter Neelima, whose marriage was scheduled in November, were burnt in the fire. Rano Devi who was among the few villagers who had gathered here to see their devastated houses, was crying like anything after seeing the dowry goods of her daughter having been reduced to ashes. ''Where would now we live? How would I marry Neelima in November?'', were the questions which Rano Devi posed to Power Minister Surjit Singh Slathia when he visited the village this afternoon alongwith Deputy Commissioner B D Sharma and SP Kathua Amzad Pervez Mirza to assess the damage. ''We have lost everything including beds, utensils and clothes in the fire. We have nothing to cook and nothing to eat. Where should we go from here. Isn’t it better that you shoot all of us here'', a group of women, who reached the village from a safer area where they had been putting up since yesterday, asked Slathia and the officials accompanying him. And, the Power Minister and his officers had no answer to the women’s queries. ''The Government rules are such that the relief these people will get after six months or even one year wouldn’t be sufficient to raise even a boundary wall but to think of re-constructing the house and purchase the goods they lost in the shelling'', an officer accompanying the Minister remarked. What Slathia and the district administration gave to the people after going through their flattened houses were nothing but ‘assurances’. ''Shelling Ke Aage Hum Kaya Kar Sakte Hein. Hum Aapka Case Uppar Tak Pahunchayenge (what can we do in front of shelling. We will take up your case with the Government)'', Slathia told a woman, who had virtually became psychic while continuously weeping at her burnt house and was not even in a condition to tell her name. There was not even a single villager, who got the time to collect even their costlier goods like ornaments or cash, before deserting their houses. ''This was so because we never thought that mortar shells would rain in the village, which was about one and a half kilometer from the International Border. Had we ever thought of Pakistan army directly hitting a civilian location, we would have migrated earlier and saved our goods, atleast'', observed a villager, Rattan Chand. ''Since 1971 Indo-Pak war, we had never experienced the shelling in our village. So we were not worries when skirmishes intensified between Indo-Pak troops in forward villages of Hiranagar sector'', Balwant Singh, a witness of 1971 war, explained. There was virtually no end to woes of the people of this village. Ram Singh said he had purchased 30 bags of cement from the money he got few months back from the crops to construct a cemented room. But, the cement bags were burnt in yesterday’s shelling, he said with tears rolling down his cheeks. Ram Singh’s hopes of constructing a concrete room had been dashed to the ground. ''My dream has been snatched by Pakistan army. Now, I would find it difficult to have a roof of my own''. Similar was the plight of Kartar Singh, who had saved Rs 10,000 from selling the crops for two years and was planning to purchase some cattle to sell their milk. His cash stood mixed in the rubble of his house. ''My two years saving is gone alongwith other goods of my house'', a visibly shaken Kartar Singh said. B S Ranial, Incharge Mareen police post, camping in the village, said the shells were targeted on the civilian locations directly by Pakistan army. ''This is something unheard of even during a war when utmost restraint is exercised to avert civilian casualties'', Ranial remarked. Besides houses, standing crops in the fields spread over hundreds of kanals of land, was also burnt in the tracers firing, giving another blow to the people. ''Standing crops would have fetched us atleast some amount that we could use for food. However, with the crops also burnt, we have been left to starve'', quipped another villager, Prem Kumar. While some people lost their standing crops, others who had cut the crops lost wheat in their houses. The scene was no different in surrounding village of Manyari where 18 out of a total 64 houses were burnt in the shelling. In Manyari too, the people didn’t get an opportunity to shift their household and other goods while fleeing from their houses. However, the villagers, whose houses survived the shelling, were lucky enough and could shift the goods last evening. An army officer of JAK Li, deployed in Pansar, told EXCELSIOR that Pakistan army also tried to hit civilian locations in Rathua, about half kilometer from Pansar but failed. People from Rathua have also migrated, he said. Meanwhile, the Power Minister has distributed cheques worth Rs 5000 each to the affected families and gave two blankets and a set of utensils to the migrants.


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