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Underreported effect of Pakistani ceasefire violations in J&K

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New Delhi, March 4: Death of four persons in Jammu and Kashmir within a week due to the Pakistani ceasefire violations has once again caught the attention of national as well as international media.

On Friday, three members of a family were killed in Salotri in Poonch district in heavy Pakistani shelling.

Underreported effect of Pakistani ceasefire violations in J&K

Twenty-four-year-old Rubana Kosar and her son Fazan (5) and nine-month-old daughter Shabnam were killed in the shelling. Rubana's husband Mohd Yunis was injured.

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On Thursday, a woman was killed and a jawan was injured when Pakistani Army heavily shelled civilian areas and forward posts in six sectors along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch and Rajouri districts.

Underreported fact is that those become first victims of Pakistani aggression are Gujjars, Bakerwals and Pahadi speaking people of Jammu and Kashmir.

While Gujjars and Bakerwals are Muslims, Pahadi speaking people consist of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.

The people killed on Friday were Gujjars. Former Jammu and Kashmir Minister Shabir Ahmad Khan told One India that the woman killed in Mendhar sector on Thursday belonged to the Pahadi community.

He informed that six districts- Jammu, Samba, Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla, and Kupwada- are along the Line of Control (LOC).

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He said that Gujjars, Bakerwals and Pahadi speaking people face the heat of Pakistani aggression in these districts.

He lamented that two years ago the Central Government sanctioned funds for constructing bunkers for villagers but the work has not started till date.

Dr. Javaid Rahi, Chairman of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, told One India that the people living along the Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir have been suffering due to the Pakistani aggression since 1947.

He said the Gujjars and Bakerwals have faced the major brunt as they were killed in large number during the 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars along the LOC and the International Border.

"Gujjars and Bakerwals are the main tribal group of Jammu Kashmir and constitute 20 percent of total population of the State who occupy frontier areas along the border from Poonch to Lakhanpur and Uri Karnah to Gurez and Kargil, " Dr. Rahi said.

He informed that Pakistan violates ceasefire throughout the year.

"Ceasefire violations by Pakistan are being witnessed for around 8-9 months in every year. Every year dozens of people are being killed and hundreds injured in Pakistani heavy shelling, which generally continues for 3-4 hours," he said.

He added the matter becomes worse when the livestock is also killed or injured in Pakistani ceasefire violations.

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Gujjars and Bakerwals are the notified scheduled tribes in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

People generally differentiate between these two communities on the basis of livestock they rear. Gujjars rear buffaloes and Bakerwals sheep and goats.

While Bakerwal community is purely nomad in nature and depends on livestock, many Gujjar families are settled in different border area villages of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is notable that apart from farming, Gujjars also depend on cattle, mainly buffaloes, for their livelihood.

There are many villages where one can find amputated livestock, Dr. Rahi, who belongs to the Gujjar community, said.

"The Pakistani shelling during cultivation time also destroys farming. While ploughing, one is always apprehensive of hitting an explosive that might have been lying underneath," he said.

Due to the uncertainty, around 5000 Gujjars and Bakerwals have shifted permanently in Punjab. They are living in Ludhiana, Machhiwara, Chamkaur Sahib, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Garhshankar, Chabbewal, Pathankot, Nawanshahr districts.

Dr. Rahi says that the border districts are underdeveloped because inhabitants fear that one Pakistani mortar may ground their house.

"The fear among people could be understood by a fact that after 1971 India-Pakistan war it was only in the year 2000 that villagers of border areas started constructing pucca houses," he said.

Following the heavy Pakistani shelling on border areas of the LOC in last few weeks, people living within near border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir were asked to shift to safer places.

Dr. Rahi, however, organised a seminar on Sunday and demanded the Government to settle Gujjars permanently at safer places in the wake of consistent heavy firing on Line of Control and International Border.

Despite the 2003 ceasefire agreement, Pakistan continues to violate it. The Pakistan Army has violated the ceasefire for over 60 times during the last week by targeting over 70 civilian and forward areas along the LoC in Poonch, Rajouri, Jammu and Baramulla districts.

The year 2018 had witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violation, numbering 2,936 by Pakistani troops, in the last 15 years.

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