In 2020, Indian troops committed more than 2900 ceasefire violations around the restive Line of Control (LoC), leaving as many as 33 innocent civilians in various parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) martyred and another 260 injured, a cabinet member said on Friday, the first day of the new year.
“Although the Covid-19 pandemic hit the entire world hard in 2020, [the] Indian army did not stop its ghastly practise of pounding our unarmed civilian populations along the dividing line,” said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, senior minister of physical planning and housing for AJK.
‘While they were on a regular surveillance mission along the LoC, not only civilians, they also targeted UN military observers this year,’ the minister said, referring to the Dec 18 shooting of a UN vehicle in the Poonch district.
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Sharing information with Dawn about the physical and material casualties, he said 16 men and 17 women were martyred. Meanwhile, the number of wounded was 260, with 161 men and 99 women injured.
The youngest martyr was two-year-old Adeeb Sudhir of Neelum valley, and Jan Begum of Bhimber district and Muhammad Bashir of Haveli district were the oldest martyrs, both over 75 years of age, he said.
The latest fatality, he said, occurred on Wednesday when a 50-year-old woman, identified as Zobina Bibi, Ajaib’s wife, died in a hospital in Rawalpindi after more than a month of fighting for her life.
On Nov 22, 11 participants at a wedding ceremony in the Seri sector of Kotli district were wounded by a mortar shell fired by the Indian army. They included Ms. Bibi and Hoorain, seven years old, who, on December 17, succumbed to her wounds in a Rawalpindi hospital.
From almost all places in the LoC, there are heart wrenching tales of death and devastation. [Stories of] civilians trapped in indiscriminate shelling and people shot even at [moments of] obvious quiet by trigger-happy Indian snipers,” said Farooq.
He said nine civilians had lost their lives in the Kotli district, seven in the Neelum valley, six in the Haveli district, five in the Bhimber district, four in the Poonch district and two in the Jhelum valley, providing the district-wise break-up of fatalities.
Of those wounded, 75 belonged to the district of Kotli, 52 to the district of Bhimber, 44 to the district of Poonch, 35 to the district of Neelum, 25 to the district of Jhelum valley, 23 to the district of Haveli and six to the district of Muzaffarabad, he said.
Damage to property
Furthermore, the minister announced that enemy shelling had also inflicted havoc on civilian land, including 596 partially or entirely destroyed houses and 40 totally damaged stores, at a time when revenue and livelihood outlets in most parts of the AJK had nearly dried up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Giving specifics of these casualties, Farooq said that, in terms of property losses, Neelum valley was the hardest affected district in 2020. In addition to another 167 houses that were slightly destroyed, a total of 34 houses and 14 stores were either burned to ashes or razed to the ground.
Eight houses and 16 shops were demolished in the Jhelum valley, and 88 houses were partially affected.
143 houses were slightly damaged in the Poonch district, while six houses and seven shops were demolished.
83 houses were slightly damaged in the Kotli district, while three houses and two shops were burned.
38 houses were partly damaged in the Bhimber district and one shop was demolished. 10 houses were partially damaged and seven houses were destroyed in the Haveli district, while eight houses were partially damaged in the Muzaffarabad district.
In addition, there was partial or total damage to a fuel pump, 23 vehicles and five bikes, four rice milling machines, three cattle sheds and nine mosques, Farooq added. He added that some 192 cattle heads had also been lost to enemy shelling by villagers.
With respect to the loss of public sector facilities, the senior minister said Indian shelling had destroyed one health centre, three intermediate colleges, five schools and an agricultural office building.
In previous years, in 2019, 59 civilians were martyred and another 281 wounded, and in 2018, 28 civilians were martyred and another 172 wounded.