Chief Minister Visits Balakote, says shelling no alternative to peace efforts

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Srinagar

Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti on Monday visited Balakote, Bimber Gali to console with the family who lost five of its members during the cross-border shelling.

The spokesman said Chief Minister handed over cheques of Rs 25 lacs as ex gratia to the next of kin of the deceased. During her visit she was accompanied by Dr Nirmal Singh; Minister for Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction & Disaster Management, Javed Mustafa Mir; legislators, Shah Muhammad Tantray, Choudhary Qamar and Yashpal Sharma.

Cops carrying one of the two girls who survived the shelling towards the army chopper at Rajouri. KL Image: Special Arrangement

Mehbooba Mufti also handed over cheques of Rs three lacs each for meeting the educational expenses of the two daughters of the family who too were injured in yesterday’s shelling incident. She also announced bearing of all expenses coming on the treatment of these two surviving family members and assured that brother of the deceased breadwinner of the family would be given job by the Government to sustain the family.

The Chief Minister also announced the construction of 15 community bunkers in Balakote area beside stationing of one bunker vehicle for the help of the local people. Besides, she also announced the strengthening of health facilities including a trauma hospital, road connectivity and other facilities in the area.

Mass mourning at Deveta village in Balakote where five civilians were killed in Pakistani shelling. Photo: GNS

Earlier on Sunday, the artillery duels led to the annihilation of a family. Of the seven-member family, only two minor girls survived. Incidentally, one of the two surviving girls is stated to be critical and is yet to be out of danger, sources in Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu said.

“They were having morning tea and all of them were in the room,” Yasmeena’s one of the young females attending the two injured sisters in the GMC said. “Suddenly a bomb exploded in the house and five of them were dead.”

The family of Ramzan was a poor one. He was a labourer who would earn by working for others to raise his family. Almost all the five kids – three sons and two daughters – were enrolled in different schools. They were living in a Gujjar Kotha that was made of timber and soil.

“They were living in Deveta village which is part of the Balakote block and is closer to Rajouri than Poonch,” Yasmeen said. “It is almost 45 km from Rajouri.”

The village, according to her has around 40 families living and most of them make their living by putting up hard labour, raising herds or simply moving out for spear time to earn for their families.

But what is interesting is that the village is far away from the Line of Control (LoC). “Our village faces the army range and is usually away from the border. There has not been any instance in which the Pakistani bombs would land in our village, this was the first such instance,” Yasmeen said. “People are really scared.”

In another incident, five soldiers were injured after the forces of both India and Pakistan exchanged brief shelling and firing in Mendhar area of Poonch district. The shelling started on Sunday morning in Balakote sector of Poonch, resulting in injuries to five soldiers.

The injured girls in the IAF chopper at Rajouri for their flight to Jammu for treatment. KL Image: Special arrangement

The injured army men were identified as Lance Naik Gaurav Vishnak (34), rifleman Budha Rai (33), Naik Jitender Verma (23), Rahul Pandey (24) and Subedar Deshbandu (47), who were later airlifted to Udhampur for specialized treatment.

Meanwhile, Senior National Conference leader and MLA Kangan Mian Altaf Ahmed have also expressed shock and anguish over the prevailing situation along the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a statement, Altaf condemned the incidents of heavy shelling along the Line of Control particularly in Poonch and Rajouri areas that have affected the people living in the twin districts.

He said that belying the claims of the Centre and well as the state government that necessary steps like the construction of underground bunkers, shifting of affected people to safer places by providing them land, the governments have done nothing for the affected people in last three years.

 

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