Pakistan on Saturday accused Indian troops of “heavily” shelling near the Line of Control (LoC), injuring six civilians including two girls. The LoC, a de facto border, divides the disputed Kashmir valley between Pakistan and India.
“Indian Army resorted to unprovoked fire in the Nikial Sector deliberately targeting the civilian population, CFVs [cease fire violations] being responded befittingly by Pak Army troops,” tweeted Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar, Pakistani army spokesman.
… 35 years old innocent civilian resident of Serian village got injured in Shakargarh Sector along Working Boundary, 57 years old citizen resident of village Nangal sustained serious injuries.
Both Injured have been evacuated and being provided with medical care. (2/2)
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) April 12, 2020
During the past 24 hours six civilians in the village of Mohra, including two girls, were injured by “indiscriminate fire” by Indian artillery, he added.
Raja Farooq Haider, the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, also know as Azad Jammu and Kashmir, posted videos on Twitter of damage to civilian property.
Haider accused Indian forces of being “more focused on committing ceasefire violations” than fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
But Col. Rajesh Kalia, a spokesman for forces in Indian-administered Kashmir, told Anadolu Agency that Pakistani troops had violated a 2003 ceasefire agreement by firing at Indian positions in the Keran area of the Kupwara district.
“Our troops retaliated effectively and strongly. Precision targeting of gun areas, terrorist launch pads and ammunition dumps carried out. Reports of heavy damage on enemy side,” he said.
However, some locals called the exchange of artillery and small arms fire between Indian and Pakistani troops since Friday unprecedented.
Peer Shafiqa Bano, who lives in the village of Panzgam inthe northern Kupwara district, said she had not seen such intense Indian army fire in her life.
“We were so scared that we thought of moving to some other area. But one is also scared of venturing out in times of a pandemic,” she told Anadolu Agency by phone.
Already fraught relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals further flared up after India scrapped the special provisions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir last August.
From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian Constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.
The provisions also protected the region’s citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
Jammu and Kashmir, divided by Line Of Control from Azad Kahmir, is held by India and Pakistan in parts, and claimed by both in full. A small sliver is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought four wars — in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999 — three of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
*Hilal Mir contributed to this story from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
Anadolu with additional input from GVS News Desk.