Pakistan’s unprovoked ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Arnia sector, which began Thursday evening and continued till 3 AM today, forced people to abandon homes in the border village of Bulleh Chak and run for their lives from mortar shells. A woman called Ekta told news agency ANI, “First there was limited firing. Then a big mortar shell hit our house at 8 PM (on Thursday). The kitchen was damaged… all glass windows have broken (but) by God’s grace, we were saved…”
The village’s Sarpanch, Dev Raj Chowdhary, told ANI Ekta and her family had spent the night in their shelled home, praying no further mortars would land on their heads.
Others, who spoke to ANI after the firing and shelling subsided, said they sought shelter in battle-scarred bunkers – in effect, empty underground rooms with no amenities and riddled with bullet holes – that dot the region. And it is to these bunkers that scared locals run to whenever there is shelling.
“These bunkers are quite big… so they are good for safety. Suddenly, (when) firing starts at night we come here…” a resident said, while another added, “They help us… when there is shelling on our homes (it) is safe here. Bunkers save our lives…”
The bunkers are critical infrastructure for border villages that live under fear of Pak shelling or terror attacks, but ANI visuals show them in a dilapidated condition.
One video shows a tiny concrete-walled room with dirt on the walls and the plaster peeling in multiple places. The floor seems unwashed and stained, seemingly with water. There is no furniture, save for what seems to be a cabinet and a small table.
#WATCH | J&K: During unprovoked firing by Pakistan, residents of the border village in the Arnia area spent their night in bunkers.
A resident says, “…These bunkers are quite big… So they are good for safety. Suddenly, the firing started at night…We come to bunkers at… pic.twitter.com/daX5axHCea
— ANI (@ANI) October 27, 2023
One resident said the bunkers are needed for their safety, but pointed out, “In the last few years there was not much firing, so we didn’t need to come here. But suddenly last night we had to come and we found it was flooded and, in the middle of the firing, someone had to stand outside and empty the bunker. Thankfully we are all safe.”
Another resident said he thought more such bunkers are needed to save people.
“In our homes in the village, many of have built permanent (pukka) homes but when mortars land on them they also get destroyed. This is why government gave us these (bunkers) but there is a problem… in our village there are 10-12 groups. How many can come here? Not everyone can rush here… and there was also flooded water here.”
#WATCH | J&K: A resident of a border village in the Arnia areas says, “…Bunkers do help us… When shelling occurs in our homes, it gets destroyed… It was safe here. They help us to save our lives…” pic.twitter.com/DhmFISjWzE
— ANI (@ANI) October 27, 2023
Locals said the firing began at 8 PM Thursday and that it was followed by loud explosions as both sides fired mortar shells. The shelling, India has said, was the biggest ceasefire violation along the international border since a deal with Pak in 2021.
Last week, two Border Security Force personnel were injured during Pak firing in the sector. However, on that occasion the situation was brought under control due to a flag meeting between local commanders of the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers.
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