The Pakistan Army rained artillery and mortar shells on Hiranagar sector in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday and destroyed villages Pansar and Manyari.
Standing wheat crop of the villagers was completely burnt when the enemy fired tracer bombs to locate Indian positions.
When journalists visited these villages 85 km southwest of Jammu on Thursday, trees and wheat stores were still smouldering.
In fact, embers were flying around when state Power Minister Surjit Singh Salathia visited the villages on Thursday to take stock of the situation.
"Over one hundred houses have been hit by the Pakistani shelling in five border villages but two villages, namely Pansar and Manyari, have been completely devastated. Over 18,000 people have fled the place and they have been given shelter in temporary camps in schools in Kathua district," Salathia told rediff.com.
He directed the district administration to ensure that the needs of the displaced villagers were taken care of.
"I would personally hand over Rs5000 to each family and give them ration, blankets and utensils before I leave the camps," he added.
Pansar bore the brunt of the firing, as it was only one-and-a-half kilometres away from the International Border. All the houses were totally gutted following the fire that broke out after the mortar shells hit the village.
"I have been ruined. I had been for years saving all my money to marry of my young daughter. All her clothes and ornaments have been destroyed completely," Ram Payari told the journalists.
She was not the only one who was ruing her bad luck. Others were rummaging through the burnt houses to see if they could salvage something.
"The Pakistanis began firing mortars on our village around 12 pm [IST] on Wednesday. We managed to save our lives by going into bunkers that had been dug in the village. But our animals and houses were completely burnt," said Jeet Raj of Manyari village.
"We could not harvest our wheat crop because of continuous firing from across the International Border. We intended to do soon. But all that is left is ashes," said Manohar Lal.
This was not the first time that the people of these border villages had to leave their houses. They had done it in 1965 and 1971 wars. But even then they had not lost so much.
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