Arnia (Jammu): The bustling Arnia border town and nearly 100 border hamlets along the Indo-Pak border now wear an empty look, with over 76,000 villagers abandoning their homes to escape heavy shelling by Pakistani troops.
Located five km from the International Border (IB), Arnia town, with a population of over 18,500, resembles a ghost town with only a few people and some policemen left each in its adjoining hamlets to take care of animals and guard houses against thefts.
The life in the border belt along the International Border (IB) has come to a standstill as farming, schooling, cattle rearing and everything else on which border dwellers survive have come to a halt due to shelling episodes.
“Arnia town is empty as most of its population has migrated. They have shifted either to their relatives or to shelter camps set up by the government”, Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Jammu, Arun Manhas, told PTI here.
Mahnas, who is leading rescue and relief operation along with civilian and police officials, said people in over 90 villages in Arnia and R S Pura sectors have either been evacuated by the police force in bullet proof vehicles or have migrated themselves.
Over 76,000 people have migrated from border areas in wake of heavy shelling and firing from last several days, Manhas said adding several camps have been setup to house border migrants.
The people, who have migrated to camps in R S Pura and Arnia and are at the forefront of Pakistani shelling, say they feel they are in a war zone with sounds of mortar bombs and rattle of automatic weapons booming in the area and deaths, injuries and devastation seen everywhere.
They say they have never seen such intense shelling and firing since 1971 and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go for war with Pakistan to sort out the issue once for all.
“I have never seen such intense and heavy shelling since 1971. Even in war, we were not so much targeted by Pakistan. Now they are raining mortar shells on us”, 78 year Bishan Dass on Arnia told PTI.
He says people living in border areas are dying in the shelling every year and it is our demand to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go for a war with Pakistan and sort out the issue once and for all.
Like him, Sattar Din Gujjar, whose Kulla along with 20 other Kullas (grass cum mud house) was burnt in Pakistan shelling at Jorafarm in R S Pura yesterday, demanded that Pakistan be taught a lesson.
“We want war with Pakistan to teach them a lesson. We are facing shelling for generations. This is the third generation which has lived under the shadow of death”, Din said.
In the hamlets, devastation is visible all around — blood stains on the floor, broken windows, injured animals and splinter marks on the walls.
Dressed in battle fatigues and bulletproof jackets, jawans of the Border Security Forces criss-cross borderline hamlets and paddy fields to take a position to give a befitting retaliation.
Some families that had initially decided to hold on to their homes have finally decided to move after intense shelling for past two days have forced them to flee border homes.
“We wanted to stay back but heavy mortar shells exploded at our house killing our cattle”, said Bobiya resident Tarseem Singh, who has fled the hamlet on his bike along with his wife and minor daughter to save their lives.
Police personnel are also making rounds of villages asking residents to shift to safer places..
On Wednesday night, the situation got worse and shells hit most of the hamlets and damaged several houses resulting in injuries to 23 people.
“I have never seen such intense shelling. It had happened during the 1965 and the 1971 wars. Such a large number of mortar bombs have not since fallen in Arnia,” Ram Singh said.
Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), R S Pura, Sahil Prashur told PTI that the situation is very tense as Arnia town has been vacated along with most of the villages as shelling is going on intermittently.
Sahil, who led the police from the front in carrying out massive evacuation of the border population from R S Pura and Arnia sectors, said houses and cattle have bore the brunt of shelling.
While most of the border dwellers are living with their relatives, over 3000 are camped in boarding and lodging places set up by the government in schools.
Over 2000 cattle have been shifted from various border hamlets to safer places.
In Samba and Ramgarh sectors of Samba district, over 4000 people have migrated besides over 2000 from Hiranagar sector of Kathua district.
Over 200 educational institutes have been closed for the next three days along the IB in Jammu, Samba, and Kathua districts by authorities in the wake of tension along the Indo-Pak border due to shelling.