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Living with constant shelling

By Luv Puri

Nowshera (Rajouri) Sept. 2. For the civilian population living near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir little has changed since the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan.

Mortar fire from across the border is a matter of routine and an exchange of 50-odd shells between the two countries is a daily affair. The villagers have no option except to run for their lives whenever the shelling starts. There is no respite at night, as the area becomes a virtual war zone. "The firing is done to divert our attention," says a senior army officer of Nowshera Brigade.

The General Officer Commanding, Northern Command, Lt. General Hari Prasad, says the shelling is to obstruct the fencing operations, which were recently started along the LoC.

The main purpose of the shelling is to facilitate infiltration, especially during the evening and morning hours. This belt witnessed high-scale firing recently. Militants killed five persons when they raised an alarm on sighting them. "Never in 14 years have we sighted militants ... The shelling and the entry of militants are inter-linked," a local youth says. Militants till now have only occasionally struck at the civilian population.

This, according to the security forces, is because they want to keep their entry points quiet. The last time the militants struck was when the villagers raised an alarm.

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