Fear has gripped border dwellers in the wake of the major terror strike by suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Kaili Mandi and they have demanded night security cover anticipating more such attacks by terrorists infiltrating into India from Pakistan.
"We are in the midst of grave fear because of the terror strike yesterday. We apprehend an increase in trans-border infiltration and more such attacks. We are sitting ducks for target practice for these infiltrating militants," terrified villagers told PTI.
The border dwellers want protection by security forces during the night and intensive patrolling by army as a confidence building measure, village headman Ram Nath said.
There are over 110 border hamlets in the Jammu region dotting the Indo-Pak international boundary and they range between 500 metres to 2 kms from the border in Kathua, Hiranagar, Ramgarh, Samba, R S Pura and Akhnoor sub-sectors. These areas are used by infiltrating militants for food, guides and night stay.
Raising questions over efficacy of the border security set up along the international border, the villagers said, "Now, Lashkar-e-Taiba infiltrators have killed six here, tomorrow another group can kill many others in another border hamlet".
The six killed included a photographer of a leading English daily of Jammu and Kashmir. Three militants, who are believed to have crossed the border last week and were involved in the gunbattle on Sunday, have been killed by the security forces.
Another villager Angrez Singh, who is a school teacher, said, "If the security forces fail to contain infiltration, then we have to pay the price. We do not want our border hamlets to become battle grounds for militants. We want to live in peace. After the 2003 border ceasefire, cross-border shelling and firing has stopped," he said.
A large number of 1500 residents of this border hamlet on the Jammu-Pathankot national highway had stayed away from their homes for about 12 hours on Sunday without food and water and were reluctant to go back to their houses even after the gunbattle had ended.
The villagers raised the issue of night security with top police officers following the encounter that had virtually turned this area into army garrison.
DIG Jammu-Kathua range Farooq Khan said the task of guarding the border was not that of the police force. "If we have to patrol these villages close to Indo-Pak border, what will be the job of those guarding the borderline?"
He said that two companies (about 200 personnel) of CRPF have been deployed in these areas and night patrolling is being done on the basis of 'need' and 'threat perception'.
General Officer Commanding, 9 Corps, Lt Gen Vinay Sharma, who is looking after the operational command in Kathua, Samba and Jammu sectors, has said that intelligence reports have indicated that heavily armed militants were waiting to infiltrate into India from across the border.
Some of the militants, who crossed over last week, were believed to be still present in this area and a massive combing operation was on to track them down, police sources said.