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May 27, 1999
India, Pak exchange artillery fire
Chindu Sreedharan in Kargil
After a period of relative quiet, Indian artillery today fired shells on positions held by Pakistani infiltrators in the Kargil sector.
The guns started booming around noon, and continued till 1245 hours, when the Pakistani guns retaliated. Their shells hit the hills of Goma, Baru, and Khurbatang.
Life, which had taken on an air of normalcy till then, slid back to the panic of yesterday, as residents, who were out shopping for essentials, took cover in bunkers and buildings.
A shell landed just outside the Dhak Bungalow, where the state Public Works Department Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon was talking to this correspondent, rattling the building. However, no damage was caused.
The people showed their resilience by coming out on to the streets once the shelling stopped. Shops opened shutters. Life once again seemed normal after that, a testimony to the forbearance of an unfortunate populace.
Last night, Kargil town was quiet after 2100 hours, the peace broken by a couple of shells exploding at 0200 hours today. The shells landed on the hills behind the town harmlessly.
Around 0500 hours we could hear the sound of roaring jets. There were five-six of them. Even now they are hovering in the area. Possibly they are targeting the Batalik area where the Indian Army says there were about 40 infiltrators.
The people who were asked to leave yesterday are returning and the market area is more alive than yesterday.
Over 20 shops are open and there are quite a few people on the roads. Twenty-nine trucks arrived with provisions at 0300 hours. Of these, six to seven have left for Leh.
There is a mad scramble for oil, vegetables, sugar and other essentials.
As of now Kargil town is normal -- as normal as possible under the circumstances.
A state official who returned from Drass last evening said he witnessed two helicopters bombing the ridges in a village seven kilometres from Drass, near the Line of Control. He described his journey as the 'most nightmarish' one he has ever undertook, with Pakistani shells bursting even on the Srinagar-Leh road.
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