The Jammu and Kashmir government was forced to close more than two dozen schools along the Line of Control (LoC) after the armies of India and Pakistan pounded each other’s locations in Chenab. On Tuesday morning, the district administration in Rajouri, Poonch and other adjoining places lying close to the LoC had to, once again, shut nearly a dozen schools. Many others along the five-kilometre radius from the LoC are likely to be shut indefinitely by evening.
Officials said tensions escalated after the Pakistani troops, according to Indian Army, fired at multiple locations in Rajouri district which continued throughout Monday night. They said Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked mortar shelling and small-arms fire at various places. “The firing started Monday evening and it is going on even as we speak,” Abdul Hakeem Gujar, a resident of Tarkundi Gali in Rajouri district, who is presently camping in a shelter home, told Firstpost over the phone, “At the crack of the dawn, we left our homes again.”
Gujar said his family has been forced to come to the plains on nearly a dozen occasions in last two months, and the education of his children has been severely affected by the growing skirmishes. “What kind of life and future can you imagine for your children if you have to leave every time the two countries fight? It's worse than if there was a continuous war,” he added.
Since the start of the year, educational institutions have largely remained shut due to the shelling in Jammu region as most fall within the five-kilometre radius of the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch. The state government recently closed more than 80 schools for almost ten days after the firing continued.
The state government said that with people involuntarily coming towards plains as soon as the firing starts, it had no other option but to close schools. It is the only way to save lives, the government insisted. “We had to close 18 schools in the morning. The intermittent firing and shelling has continued over past few days, but last night it occurred at various locations. We might end up closing more schools by the end of the day,” Rajouri deputy commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary told Firstpost.
“The most affected areas are Tarkundi Gali, Lambi Bari, Khorinar and Dharand Panjgrian in Rajouri, Choudhary added. “These areas have borne the brunt of the fresh ceasefire violations.” Army spokesperson Lt Colonel Devender Anand said the firing across the LoC started around 8.45 am and the Indian Army was retaliating effectively.
The LoC and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir recently saw heightened violence. In January, at least 17 civilians were killed on the border while five Indian Army soldiers and four BSF personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector, died along with an intruder.
The civilian government led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Opposition National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah and the Hurriyat Conference's hawks and doves have urged New Delhi to start a process of dialogue with Islamabad but their pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.
More than 6,000 people have been living in shelter homes across the Jammu region. Last week, after the firing started in the relatively calm north Kashmir’s Uri region, officials said 40,000 to 50,000 residents from nearly 55 villages were impacted by the escalation.
Since last week, skirmishes injured three civilians while at least five homes were severely damaged in Silikote and Churanda villages, which are perilously close to the LoC.
“We were preparing to go to school when an announcement was made in the mosque that schools have been closed,” Insha Afreen, a Class 6 student at a government-run school in Lambi Bari, told Firstpost. “This is the ninth time in two months that school was closed.”
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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2018 16:08:50 IST