The fear of migration from border areas in Jammu and Kashmir is looming large after India carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in PoK on several launch pads on Thursday morning.
Cross LoC raids are not unusual but what is unusual is the claim of the Indian government that its forces have carried out such attacks, making it a first time that such a claim has been made.
Jammu and Kashmir government fears that the working International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) could witness major escalation in coming days, as Pakistani forces might retaliate after the strikes.
That could be the reason the state administration has asked people living along the border and LoC to be ready in case of any eventuality arising in the coming days.
"Around 25,000 people are living along the LoC in Mendhar sector; we have identified 25 location in Mendhar sub-district where we are going to rehabilitate these people, but till now we have not asked anyone to leave their villages," SDM Mendhar Thakur Sher Singh, told Firstpost.
The shells from across the LoC started landing in several villages in Poonch and Rajouri districts in the wee hours of Thursday morning, forcing residents to take shelter in underground bunkers, as the firing continued for hours.
"We first heard artillery fire and later, shells landing in our village at around 5 am. We started running towards safety and took cover in a nearby bunkers," Sarpanch Naveen Kripal, a resident of Keri village in Rajouri district, said.
DIG Rajouri Poonch range, Johnny Williams, said that there is a lot of activity across the Pir Panjal Range and this time there was ceasefire violations even in Nowshera sector.
"People have started making underground bunkers and they have been asked to exhibit caution and advised if they hear any fire they should slip into the bunkers, which have been already constructed," DIG Williams, said.
"The massage from the government has been that in case firing again starts today we will be moving out of villages," SDM Singh, added.
The exchange of fire began at 2.30 am, and continued till 8 am, according to sources. The reports said that fire and mortar shells were exchanged in Bhimber, Hotspring Kel and Lipa sectors across the 740 kilometers of LOC that divides India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
Heavy firing and shelling was reported from Sabjian, Mendhar and Nowshera in Jammu region and Nowgam sector in Kashmir. The fresh escalation has left the villagers across the LoC frightened and hopeless.
"We have been living a peaceful life for some time now but it seems we are likely to become refuges in our own country, very soon. Peace is so fragile in our lives that a mere skirmish can change our destiny," Abdul Rahim Sheikh, a resident of Sabjian village in Poonch said.
"If a war or a ceasefire breaks out between India and Pakistan, we are first ones to be effected and our lives become miserable," Sheikh added.