Friday 18 October 2019

Bunkers for families amid Kashmir shelling

Crash: Wreckage of an Indian Air Force helicopter in Kashmir
Crash: Wreckage of an Indian Air Force helicopter in Kashmir

Krishna N Das

India is building more than 14,000 bunkers for families living along its border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir state, hoping to keep them safe near their homes instead of evacuating them as artillery shells scream overhead.

On Tuesday, Pakistan used heavy calibre weapons to shell 12 to 15 places along the Indian side of the de-facto border known as the Line of Control which divides the disputed Kashmir region, a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said. The Indian army retaliated with its own shelling of the Pakistani side, he said.

That created "panic among people", said Rahul Yadav, deputy commissioner of the Poonch district, a remote area of the Indian state which faced some of the attacks.

The new shelters, planned before this week's spike in tensions, are supposed to reduce that fear and prevent people from having to flee when the shelling begins.

There have been frequent exchanges of fire along the actual and de-facto borders in recent months, but Tuesday's was a major escalation after India carried out an air strike on what it said was a training camp run by an Islamist militant group in Pakistan.

India was responding to a suicide car bombing claimed by a member of the group, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir almost two weeks ago.

As well as the shelling, Pakistan retaliated yesterday by carrying out air strikes on the Indian side of the border and, according to officials in Islamabad, shot down two Indian jets over Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring militancy in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-dominated region. (© Reuters)

Irish Independent

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