by Hakeem Irfan

In a fresh exchange of fire on the border, four BSF personnel including an assistant commandant were killed and five others injured in Ramgarh and Chambliyal sectors of Samba in Jammu on Wednesday.

The killings have once again shattered the rickety 2003 ceasefire, which top army officials of both India and Pakistan recently agreed to respect and uphold. The exchange of fire is also a set back to political process of dialogue and temporary suspension of operations, which J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is desperately pursuing in an attempt to ameliorate the report card of her government.

The BSF officials informed that the firing took place in Samba--around 45 km from Jammu city--which has remained one of the most affected areas of cross border firing this year.

Hundreds of residents had vacated the frontier villages of Samba following heavy shelling in April and May this year.

The officials said that four BSF personnel were killed and five of them were injured, when Pakistan troops targeted the BSF posts and some of the civilian areas in frontier villages of Samba. A BSF patrol party moving for night surveillance was the prime target. Three of the deceased have been identified as Assistant Commandant Jatinder Singh, Assistant Sub-Inspector Ram Niwas and constable Hans Raj.

“In Ramgarh Jammu sector of IB, 4 BSF personnel were martyred including one Assistant Commandant & five injured due to firing from across. Our heart goes to those who lost their dear ones,” J&K police chief S P Vaid tweeted.

Earlier, on June 3, two BSF personnel including an officer were killed and three civilians were injured in Pargwal and Akhnoor sector of Jammu. Following this incident, a commander level meeting between BSF and Pakistan Rangers Sector was held on June 4, to maintain conducive atmosphere on the border and maintain peace and tranquillity.

This meeting was also a follow up to hotline contact between Director General Military Operations of India and Pakistan on May 29, who reiterated their commitment to uphold 2003 ceasefire and restore peace along Line of Control and International Border.

The continued exchange of fire has angered the border residents especially in Jammu divison. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his recent two-day tour of J&K also ensured to visit RS Pora sector of Jammu to calm the tempers and dilute the criticism BJP politicians in Jammu were facing. Singh, announced increase in compensation for those killed in border firing, besides formation of two new battalions exclusively for border residents.

Last month after announcing unilateral suspension of operations in J&K, Singh claimed that government of India was ready to engage with Pakistan and Hurriyat. He urged Pakistan to take some initiatives in this direction. In J&K, chief minister Mufti also maintained that she expects Pakistan and Hurriyat to respond positively to New Delhi’s fresh political overtures.

However, nothing seems to be working as of now on ground. In Valley, the militant attacks are going on while as on borders infiltration and exchange of fire continues.

In last four weeks, 18 people including 10 civilians and eight BSF personnel were killed, scores were injured and over 60,000 residents of forward areas had to migrate due to heavy exchange of fire on borders in Jammu.

As per the official data of Home Ministry, there have been over 860 ceasefire violations along LoC and International Border in 2018 and most of the incidents have occurred in Jammu region. In 2017, as per the official data 860 and 111 CFVs were reported on LoC and IB respectively, during which 12 civilians and 19 armed forces personnel were killed.

On the other side of the border, Pakistan media reported that Indian snipers killed a 45-year-old resident of Taroti Dharamsal village in Abbaspur tehsil of Poonch district on Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan in a presser on May 25 said that India carried out more than 1050 ceasefire violations along the LoC and the working boundary, this year till now, killing 28, civilians, while injuring 117 others. In 2017, they claimed Indian forces committed 1970 ceasefire violations.