Pakistani troops are pounding border hamlets with heavy mortar shells to especially target civilians in the latest round of ceasefire violations by the neighbouring country.
In the past four days, a six-year old boy and a man have been killed and 24 civilians injured while over 60 cattle have perished and 200 cattle left injured in firing by Pakistani troops. Scores of houses and other structures along the IB in Jammu district are riddled with ammunition from across the border.
The situation worsens during nighttime as villagers struggle to find a safe place to escape from the gunfire.
"Pakistani troops are now increasingly targeting civilians. They are resorting to heavy mortar shelling and firing targeting our houses and animals," says Subash Chander of village Suchetgarh said.
Subash, whose seven family members were injured as shells exploded in the compound of his house close to IB in Suchetgarh, said the Pakistani troops rain mortar bomb shells and fire from automatic weapons targeting civilians.
"We are sitting ducks for the Pakistani troops, who find civilian targets and their properties to target after they failed to fight with Border Security Force troops," he said.
The firing from across the border had intensified from October 21 when BSF killed seven Pak Rangers and a terrorist in retaliatory firing.
Many people from border hamlets in R S Pura, Arnia, Hiranagar, and Pargwal sectors have fled their homes and taken shelter in migrant camps set up by the state government at safer places.
"As the shell landed in our compound, there was a deafening blast and splinters injured us mostly in legs. All were lying in blood," Subash's wife Kamlesh Devi said.
Kamlesh along with her daughter Sukhi is undergoing treatment in GMC hospital.
Daljeet Kaur, who was working close to her house in Chand Chak (R S Pura), was injured when a mortar shell exploded. She was taken by her husband to hospital.
"It looks as if Pakistan is specifically targeting civilians and cattle with specific. Their guns look for human targets," Kaur said.
In Suchetgarh, Ramesh Chander was returning home on a motorbike when a shell exploded near him, injuring his leg.
In Karotana Khurd hamlet close to Indo-Pak border, Pakistani troops shelled the houses of Kuwinder Singh and Bishan Dass.
"We passed the night huddled in one room as the house was shelled," said Kulwinder, who later left his home along with his mother, wife and two daughters.
There are similar horrific tales from people, who feel they living under the shadow of death.
Harbans Lal of Vidhpur says his entire family would have perished had the shell, which pierced through the roof of their house, had landed any closer to the room where they were huddled.
Three shells landed in the compound of the house of Desh Raj of Vidhpur hamlet close to IB in R S Pura.
"One shell hit a vehicle and damaged it. One landed close to wash room and another landed in the compound of the house," he said.
Director General of Border Security Force K K Sharma had on Monday said that Pakistani troops were targeting civilian areas.
"The way they are bombarding our areas, they are targeting civilians but as a policy BSF does not target civilians at all," Sharma told reporters after laying wreath at the mortal remains of BSF Head Constable Susheel Kumar, who died in Pakistani firing on Monday.
"We only target the place from where the fire is coming. We only target military and Pakistan Rangers establishments. we never intentionally target civilian areas," he had said.
"As a policy matter, BSF does not target civilian areas in retaliatory action," Sharma had said.
He also asserted that the forces "have never initiated" firing.
"It is Pakistan who is doing it. As you know in case of Gurnam Singh they killed him in a sniper fire and we gave them a befitting reply," he had said.
IMAGE: A villager shows the pockmarked wall of a building damaged by shelling from the Pakistani side of the border, at Gopad basti village in R S Pura Sector, about 35 km from Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo