February 2018 News

Amid Thaw In Pakistan Shelling, Border Villagers Returning To Homes In Uri

28 February 2018
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: After thaw in Pakistani troops firing and mortar shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri sector, the border villagers, who had migrated to safer places to escape shelling, have begun returning to their native places. Surprisingly, the border residents were evacuated in ambulances by the district administration and army did not provide any Bullet Proof (BP) vehicle for evacuation of the people. SDM Uri, Dr Sagar Doifode told New Indian Express, over 1500 people were evacuated from seven villages affected by cross-LoC firing and shelling in Uri sector last week. Related Article Pakistan resorts to firing, shelling along LoC in Rajouri, Jammu Pakistan troops fire on Indian Army posts in Uri sector He said since the cross-LoC firing and shelling has stopped from last few days, people have begun to return to their homes. 'Only 350 people are presently living in camp established in a government girls school in Uri while others have moved back to their homes,' he said. He said when the shelling started last week over 1500 people had migrated with 700-800 of them taking shelter in the camp set up by administration and rest at their relatives places. Asked whether administration or army has asked people to return back, Sagar said, 'People are returning on their own' He said the people are home sick and some are returning to take care of their livestock. The Uri sector witnessed heavy Pakistani troops firing and shelling from February 20-24. It was the heaviest shelling in the sector since 2003 border ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistani came into effect. A population of 7000 in seven villages including Churunda, Silikote, Balakote was affected by the shelling. Farooq Ahmad, who is a resident of Silikote village and is now living in a camp set up by government in a school in Uri, said he along with his wife, three daughters and son left the village on February 21 in view of heavy shelling. 'We left on our own and were evacuated in an ambulance vehicle by the administration,' he said. Farooq said the villagers were frightened after the heavy shelling as the shells and bullets were landing everywhere. 'We heard Pakistan announcement asking people to vacate the village and leave to safer places,' he said. He said now that shelling has stopped, people are returning to their villages to assess the damage and see whether living in their villages is feasible at now. A woman Naseema Bano of Churunda village said they don't want to return to their village because it is not safe to live there. 'We don't know when the firing and shelling will resume. I have not seen such heaviest shelling,' she said. Naseema said they don't want to return to the village. 'We should be provided safe and alternate place for living by the people. We don't want to live in shelter houses. The government should rehabilitate us in safe areas, where our families can live in peace without threat of cross-border firing and shelling,' she said. Irshad Ahmad, a resident of Balakote, said some people have returned to the village while some other return in the day and come back to the government camp in the evening. 'Since situation is very fragile, we cannot risk to move back to our homes close to LoC, which are in direct range of firing and mortar shelling of Pakistani troops,' he said. SDM Uri said the administration has advised people living in border to stay in lower floors. 'We have told them not to stay near windows or heavy items in their houses.' Asked how administration evacuated people last week, he said, 'We evacuated them in ambulances and private vehicles hired by the administration'. When told whether army provided any BP vehicle to them for evacuating the border residents, Sagar said, 'No. Army did not provide us any BP vehicle for evacuation of the people'. He said 50-60 houses have been partially damaged while three were fully damaged in the cross-LoC firing and shelling.