Arnia (J-K), Oct 27 (PTI) Unprovoked firing by Pakistan Rangers has marred dozens of weddings in villages along the International Border in Jammu with many forced to make last-minute changes to some rituals as well.
In the case of Ishant Saini and Sangeeta's wedding, a majority of the guests left the feast amid heavy shelling by Pakistan in the R S Pura sector.
The cross-border shelling and firing by Pakistan Rangers, the first major ceasefire violation since 2021, started around 8 pm Thursday in the Arnia area and lasted for around seven hours.
It revived memories of frequent and intense cross-border firing prior to the renewed ceasefire between India and Pakistan on February 25, 2021. According to the Border Security Force (BSF), the unprovoked firing by Pakistan continued till 3 am on Friday and was "befittingly responded".
A BSF jawan and a woman were injured in the Pakistani firing, while several houses were damaged by the shelling, officials said.
Ishant Saini's brother Deepak told PTI, "We are feeling sorry for the guests who left in panic without enjoying the feast after being informed about Pakistani shelling in our village." He said that they had to make last-minute changes to some of the marriage rituals as well.
"As per our tradition, the 'phere' was supposed to be performed at the bride's house. But since it is located near the zero line, we decided to perform this important ritual at this venue as well," Deepak told PTI at the marriage hall.
"This is the time for harvesting paddy. But the Pakistani firing forced the labourers to flee. It is after a gap of four to five years that our village came under (mortar) shelling from Pakistan," said Deepak Choudhary a local of Nai Basti village.
He said that at least half a dozen shells landed in the village, leaving her relative Rajni Bala injured. She is now undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu.
On October 17, two BSF personnel were injured when Pakistani rangers opened fire on their post in Arnia but the exchange of fire between the two sides was brief and restricted to small-arms firing only. The BSF subsequently lodged a strong protest with Pakistan in the larger interest of peace along the borders.
The house of Pawan Kumar of Buley Chek village near the zero line also suffered damage due to the explosion of a mortar shell.
"We had forgotten about the cross-border shelling... now we are in panic as the underground bunkers are not in proper condition," he said.
Vijay Kumar, a soldier who had come to his village on leave said, "We had to leave our village as we cannot take shelter in underground bunkers which have not been used for a long time. How long will we tolerate shelling from Pakistan?” He said since this is the season of weddings, people initially took the sound of firing as bursting of firecrackers but as the intensity grew, they fled for safety.
Highlighting the need for upkeep of the underground bunkers, Vijay Kumar said these have turned into dens of snakes and poisonous insects.
These shelters must be cleaned immediately and must have an electricity supply, he said.
Rupali Devi, who along with her husband also left their village, said all the people residing in the border areas do not have access to underground bunkers.
"We have not thought of a situation where we have to leave our homes again. While I am outside the village, many of my family members are there. Thankfully they are safe," another local Sohan said. PTI SBL/TAS NSD NSD