JAMMU: India and Pakistan exchanged heavy mortar and gun fire along the international border with Pakistani troops targeting over 130 villages and 60 Border Out Posts overnight in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, leaving 12 people including three BSF jawans injured.
The firing and shelling continued intermittently during the day till 1100 hours in Pargwal, Kanachak, Arnia and Ramgarh sub-sectors, officials said.
Pakistan Rangers shelled almost the entire 192-km border during the night. Nearly 30,000 people have been displaced following one of the worst violations of the 2003 ceasefire by Pakistan which has left eight people dead and 80 others, including nine security men, injured since October 1.
People from 113 border hamlets have migrated leaving the hamlets deserted.
"Pakistani Rangers continued with unprovoked mortar shelling and heavy automatic weapon firing on BSF posts all along International Border (IB) since 2045 hours last night", a BSF spokesman said today.
"Almost the whole stretch of International Border in Samba, Hiranagar, Ramgarh, Arnia, R S Pura, Kanachak and Pargwal (Sub-sectors) was affected in the firing," he said.
"About 60 BSF border outposts were affected by the fire from Pakistan side," the spokesman said, adding BSF troops retaliated in a "calibrated manner".
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said the defence forces were giving a "befitting" reply to the Pakistani onslaught and the country will not bow down before anyone.
"I want to assure the people that we will not let down our country," he said, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that "everything will be fine soon".
"The Prime Minister is keeping a close eye on the situation. He does not need to speak as our Army and BSF personnel are giving a befitting response and we are satisfied with it," Singh said amid questions being raised by the Opposition on Government's response to the ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
According to officials, over 130 border villages have been hit by mortar shelling and firing by Pakistan since last night. Of these 57 hamlets were hit in Kathua district, over 50 in Jammu and 20 in Samba district, they said. Pakistan Rangers shelled almost the entire 192-km border overnight. Nearly 30,000 people have been displaced following one of the worst violations of the 2003 ceasefire by Pakistan which has left eight people dead and 80 others, including nine security men, injured since October 1.
"Pakistani Rangers continued with unprovoked mortar shelling and heavy automatic weapon firing on BSF posts all along International Border (IB) since 2045 hours last night," a BSF spokesman said in Jammu.
Jaitley said if Pakistan wants peace on the borders, it should stop what it is doing. "Pakistan has to stop this unprovoked firing and shelling. As long as that continues how can there be peace."
Asked about chances of talks between leaders of the two countries, he shot back, "how can you talk when firing is on?"
Underlining that India is a responsible country which is not an aggressor but is responsible for fully protecting its people and land, the Defence Minister said, "Our forces are taking all steps they can to protect our people and land."
Both Modi and Jaitley attacked the opposition leaders who have been criticising the government over its handling of the border situation.
Targeting Pawar, who had slammed him for holding poll rallies in Maharashtra when there was tension on the border, Modi said, "When you were the defence minister, there were problems with Pakistan and China on the border. Did you ever bother to go to the border then?"
"There have been terror strikes in Maharashtra during your tenure...Mumbai, Malegaon, Pune. You could not even reach the terrorists, leave alone catching them. In the spirit of patriotism, we never politicised the issue," he said.
Jaitley also attacked opposition leaders for their "ill-informed" criticism of the government over ceasefire violations.
"They should at least know this much as to what extent our forces are going to protect the borders," he said.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has attacked the government over ceasefire violations and Chinese incursion, questioning its policies.
Jaitley singled out Pawar, saying he should have been more informed as a former defence minister.
Asked about Pakistan's motives behind the escalation, Jaitley said he would not like to speculate but firing could be a cover for infiltration and also an effort by it to precipitate tension where none existed.
"Our forces have only one option which is to respond adequately," the Defence Minister said.
He said many militants have been killed in firing since floods hit Jammu and Kashmir, an evidence of Pakistan's attempts to push more militants into Indian territory.
Asked why Pakistan is doing it now, he said the question should be put to those across the border.