Poonch: Villagers bid tearful adieu to couple, their son killed in Pak shelling

Hundreds of villagers on Saturday bid a tearful adieu to a couple and their son who were killed in heavy mortar shelling by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Mohammad Rafiq (58), his wife Rafia Bi (50) and their son Irfan (16) were killed when a mortar shell hit their house at Karmara village and exploded during the shelling on Friday night.

Hundreds of people from the village and its adjoining areas participated in the funeral prayers of the deceased, who were buried at their ancestral graveyard, officials said.

Following the Friday incident, local residents staged protests against Pakistan for frequently violating ceasefire and targeting civilian areas, they said.

“Such incidents have become routine for us. How long will we tolerate this?” one of the villagers said and demanded an immediate end to cross-border shelling.

However, he said these incidents will not deter border residents from safeguarding their country from the evil designs of the enemy.

Senior civil and police officials besides leaders of different political parties also took part in the funeral prayers, the officials said.

The National Conference (NC) said Rafiq was a prominent party worker and added that “at a time when the entire world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pakistani army is indulging in ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and inhuman targeting of civilians”.

The Congress and the J&K Apni Party (JKAP) also condemned Pakistani shelling on civilian areas. They demanded adequate compensation for the affected family and necessary security measures for the safety of border residents.

Shelling has almost paralysed normal activities in forward areas with people having sleepless nights, the NC said.

“The situation has further worsened with the delay in construction of community bunkers and safety sheds for people to take refuge during the inhuman acts being committed by the Pakistan army,” senior NC leaders, including provincial president Devender Singh Rana, said in a joint statement here.

The party described the unabated and unprovoked shelling from across the LoC as “highly deplorable” and said targeting civilians is not only “uncivilised and inhuman” but “barbaric” as well.

“This speaks of Pakistan”s scant regard for human lives,” the statement said, adding that people living in areas along the LoC are reeling under constant fear and uncertainty.

Referring to the loss of human lives and damages to property over the years in the Poonch and Rajouri belt of Jammu and Kashmir, the NC leaders said the administration has failed to instill a sense of security among the people and take effective measures.

“They also expressed concern over the lackadaisical approach of the agencies concerned in reaching out to the affected people during the hour of need and providing them assistance,” the statement said.

The NC leaders urged the administration to come out with a road map and fool proof plans to meet the challenges arising due to Pakistani shelling.

The Congress’ Jammu and Kashmir unit condemned the shelling from across the border and asked the BJP-led government at the Centre to take “result oriented” measures to check Pakistan’s increased mischief and misadventures against India.

There has been manifold increase in border shelling incidents from Pakistan in recent years due to alleged failure of the Centre to check and control Pakistan, Congress Jammu and Kashmir chief G A Mir said.

“Every time it is claimed that a befitting response is being given to Pakistan, but the rising number of ceasefire violations and martyrdom of our jawans and civilians is intolerable,” he said in a statement here.

The entire nation is behind the armed forces and the government of the day to deal with the hostile neighbour to safeguard Indian citizens but it should resort to result oriented measures in this direction, he said.

“Our border population has been the worst hit during the last six years because of large-scale incidents of shelling all along the LoC and the International border. The entire border population is living under the fear of death and destruction which is very unfortunate and serious,” Mir said.

JKAP also condemned the Pakistani shelling and demanded adequate compensation to the next of kin of the deceased civilians.

“The targeting of civilian areas along the LoC is a highly condemnable and unjustified act of Pakistan. The government of India should respond to the aggressive gestures of Pakistan on the border with equal force to silence their guns,” JKAP leaders said in a joint statement.

They also appealed for speedy construction of concrete bunkers in the vulnerable areas to avoid further loss of lives of the people.