Poonch Family Annihilation: The Complete Story

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SRINAGAR: The routine tensions between India and Pakistan armies are getting inhuman and ferocious with every passing day. The escalations have triggered complete insecurity among tens of thousands of people living in the areas straddling the Line of Control (LoC).

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

Balakote Family

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.

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

“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.”

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

Normally, the shelling impacts the population, which are very close to the Line of Control. The Sunday incident indicates that the weapons being used have had an upgrade because they reach destinations, which normally were considered safe and far away. One official said the village, located slightly at a higher altitude would stay unaffected but seemingly some long-range weapon has been used.

“When the blast took place in the house, it hit everybody,” Yasmeen said, “The girls were also injured but one of them has received splinters on her face, and arms.” The two girls were driven to Rajouri and by afternoon they were flown to GMC Jammu where one of them is stated to be slightly more critical.

The slain in the incident includes Mohammad Ramzan and his homemaker wife Malika Bi. They took along with them three sons: Rehman, Rizwan, and Razak. All the slain kids were minors and school going students. Rehman, an eighth standard student and Rizwan, who was in seventh class, were both school toppers. The youngest of them was barely seven years old. The two surviving girls Nasreen and Mehreen are 11 years and five years old. The younger of the two is in a bad state, doctors said.

The scene in the village was pathetic. As the entire village assembled, they lined up the five dead bodies on the cots and there was ass mourning. The scenes were so emotional that the cops were seen consoling the mourners. The locality had set up a tent of polyethene under which the mourning was taking place.

Impact on ground

“This village is on the border of our district and is part of poncho but I visited the visited the village,” Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner Rajouri told Kashmir Life. “We rescued the injured and shifted them to Jammu and they were in a terrible bad state.”

Choudhary said the region is facing serious incise in the escalations and so far nearly 40 people including civilians and security men were killed. “In Rajouri, this year alone, we lost seven civilians and in Poonch, I believe, the number might have reached 15 after today’s tragedy,” Choudhary said.

The impact of the escalations has literally crippled the governance systems. “Ninety percent of the developmental projects in the border villages have not been touched this year,” Choudhary said. “There is no economic activity, people have stopped availing the crop insurance because they did not sow anything so far. The schools remained impact for almost half of the year since 2017 summer.”

Asked if the scared populations have migrated, Choudhary said the people living in the area avoid migration, unlike the Nowshehra belt.

The situation on the other side

Reports appearing in the Pakistani media suggest that nine people were injured in shelling from the India army positions. Though most of them have survived the injuries will keep them in hospitals for a long time. All these injuries were reported from in Nakyal sector that faces the Balakote belt. These include three sisters who were injured in one shell explosion in Palani village.

A young Kashmiri woman being operated in Kotli after she was injured in shelling. Photo Internet

Incidentally, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that on Wednesday two UNMOGIP observers survived miraculously when their vehicles came under fire from Indian positions. The two observers had gone to the village to talk to the residents. As the two villagers were approaching towards their vehicles they were attacked and both were injured. Tragically, the UNMOGIP officials left the injured there and fled to safety, an incident that was adverse commented upon, the reports suggested.

UNMOGIP is having the mandate to supervise the LoC but after the Shimla agreement, Delhi has taken a stand that it lacks the mandate in interfering in te bilateral issue. Pakistan, however, is maintaining its re-1972 status in its relations with the UNMOGIP. The observers operate on both sides of the LoC. While they get all facilities in their operations from Srinagar and Delhi, they get no cooperation in terms of situations at the LoC.

A UNMOGIP observer briefing a police official in PaK minutes after they were attacked from the Indian side. Two villagers were injured in the attack.

 Political parties react

Opposition National Conference (NC) had a full delegation visiting the village. Led by Devinder Singh Rana and Ajay Sadhotra, the delegation expressed sympathies with the families. Earlier, local lawmaker Javed Rana was in the village.

“Our people are being literally butchered and treated as mere inanimate objects that can be mortar-shelled at any time,” Rana was quoted saying.

Later D S Rana led a huge delegation to the village. “The tragedy cannot be described in words”, Rana was quoted saying.

Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti has already expressed her concern in her condolence message. Deputy Chief Minister was also shocked over the killings. Terming the incident as heart-wrenching, Ms Mufti reiterated that dialogue and reconciliation are the only means to get the State and the region out of this vicious cycle of blood spilling for which she appealed all sections of society and Governments to support.

The injured sisters being taken to the IAF chopper in Rajouri for their treatment in Jammu. The two were the only surviving members of a seven-member family that were killed in Pakistani shelling in Balakote belt of Poonch on March 18, 2018. KL Image: Special arrangement

In Jammu, Works Minister Naeem Akhtar visited GMC to inquire about the condition of Naureen (12) and Mehreen (6). He asked the doctors to ensure best possible treatment to the girls. He said the Government is taking all the administrative measures to reach out to the affected population in the area.

The Minister expressed deep anguish over the continuing loss of precious human lives and targeting of unsuspecting civilians in cross-LoC firing bringing immense miseries to the people living along the borders in the State.

“As long as India and Pakistan will not come forward and talk, we will have to see the poor people dying like this every day,” Akhter told reporters. “The only way out has to be to revive the Vajpayee doctrine.”

Post- Script

By the evening when the belt was in shock and mourning, there was shelling in Mendhar. Reports said five soldiers were injured and all of them flown to Udhampur base hospital. They were identified Lance Naik Gauravishnak, Rifleman Budha Rai, Naik Jitenderr Verma, Rahul Panday and Sobedar Desh Bandu.

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  1. What a tragedy with Kashmiris living on either side of LOC, India and Pakistan are fighting proxy war on the deads bodies of innocent kashmiris, those are also Muslims, CM of Indian held Kashmir was sorry for the tragedy but she was also helplessness, being a puppet CM that too a lady, who has no tongue, to express her grief of her country men. Pakistan continue firing teaching a lesson to Indian by again killing the innocent kashmir residing on LOC.

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