Just three hours after Pakistani shells tore into an eight-year-old girl, Sajida Kafeel, at Balakote in Poonch and killed a soldier, Naik Mudasir Ahmed, in Rajouri’s Manjakote on Monday early morning, Indian Army’s director general of military operations (DGMO) Lt General A.K. Bhatt told his Pakistani counterpart Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza in no uncertain terms of India’s warranted right to hit back.
Two civilians and a soldier were also injured in the latest spurt of Pakistan firing, while several Army vehicles and a shelter caught fire as the Pakistanis used mortar bombs, small arms and automatics to target the Indian positions in these areas.
With the Pakistani Army violating the ceasefire 237 times in less than seven months this year till Monday, Lt General Bhatt told his Pakistani counterpart that while India “is sincere in its effort of maintaining peace and tranquility along the LoC provided there was reciprocity”, it reserved the right to retaliate.
The 10-minute phone conversation — looked upon as a measure to convey annoyance as much as to defuse tension — took place at about 10.30 am at the behest of Pakistan.
Of the 237 CFVs this year, Kashmiri militants initiated 63 when attempting to infiltrate in the vicinity of Pakistani posts along the Line of Control (LoC), top government sources said. Last year, there were 449 CFVs, with 405 in 2015 and 583 in 2014.
With Indian forces taking strong counter-insurgency action, in less than seven months till now, the past seven months, the number of militants killed stood at 103, as against 110 in 2014, 108 in 2015 and 150 in 2016.
Earlier on Sunday, Pakistan had reported the death of four of its soldiers due to drowning in the Neelam river (called Kishan Ganga in Jammu and Kashmir) in PoK’s Athmuqam sector after their vehicle was allegedly fired upon by Indian forces in an alleged CFV.
On the Pakistani heavy shelling using mortars and automatic weapons, Shahid Choudhary, deputy commissioner, Rajouri, told this newspaper on the phone: “It is mainly Manjakote (in Rajouri) where 4,000-5,000 of the civilian population has been affected. Intense firing is going on since 8 AM. Infrequently, mortar shells have landed in villages. Four to five affected families were evacuated… Also 16 schools were closed as a precautionary measure.”
Last week, the Pakistani authorities had reported the death of five civilians and injuries to a score others in the Indian firing and shelling in Chirikot, Satwal and other sectors on their side of the de-facto border. India’s deputy high commissioner JP Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office in Islamabad for the second consecutive day on July 9 over the alleged CFVs by the Indian troops along the LoC.
A Muzaffarabad-based reporter said that the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir authorities have banned tourists from the picturesque Neelam valley in view of the border skirmishes.
The 745-km-long LoC has witnessed multiple CFVs in recent weeks. After each clash between the Indian and Pakistani troops, the two sides blamed each other for initiating the firing. Many civilians and soldiers on the two sides have lost their lives in the exchanges of fire and thousands of families have abandoned their homes and relocated to safer locations on both side of the de-facto border.