Pak shelling damages iconic temple near border, 3 civilians injured

Shock and anger has gripped Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistan Rangers shelled a revered temple near the International Border (IB) in Arnia sub-sector of Jammu on Friday night.

The incident started with Pakistan Rangers resorting to heavy firing and shelling using small to heavy weapons. One of the shells landed on Gayatri Mandir in Arnia, damaging its roof. Shells also landed in the Arnia town causing panic among the local people.

“During the intervening nigh of Friday and Saturday, Pakistan violated ceasefire by resorting to firing using small to heavy weapons at Sai, Treva and Jabowal forward posts in Arnia sector. Indian forces retaliated. The firing stopped by Saturday morning,” said a police spokesperson.

The shelling left a trail of destruction in the area. Police said no loss of human life had been reported so far but three cattle were killed and two houses, two cattle sheds and the Gayatri temple was damaged in the shelling.

Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of RS Pora, Surinder Chaudhary, told DNA that the roof of the Lakshmi temple has suffered damages in the shelling. “The area is 1.5 kilometre away from the IB offices. One of the shells landed on the temple damaging its roof,” he said.

Chaudhary said it is an old temple of Goddess Lakshmi and a lot devotees visit this religious place. “It is for the first time the shell has landed on this temple. Otherwise shells have been landing in civilian areas. Three to four shells landed in the town also. Fortunately, nobody died or got injured,” he said.

Panic has gripped the area after the fresh bout of shelling. Local administration has been quick to issue an advisory of dos and don’ts to the local people to escape the cross-border shelling.

“We have issued an advisory asking people to stay indoors if there is shelling. And those who are already out have been advised to lie flat on the ground if shelling starts,” said Chaudhary.

The targeting of the temple has evoked sharp reaction from the ruling BJP, which has asked the government to put Pakistan on notice so that such acts are not repeated.

“Pakistan has no regard for human life or places of worship. Even when two armies fight in open war they don’t destroy places of worship. Destroying a temple is the most degradable thing by any army. We hope the government takes a strong view of this, and it will be notified to Pakistan that this type of activities will not be tolerated,” Sunil Sethi, BJP spokesman, told DNA.

Meanwhile, two militants were killed when the army foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control (LoC) in Machil sector of Kupwara in North Kashmir. “Two terrorists were killed. Weapons and warlike stores were recovered,” said Colonel Rajesh Kalia, defence spokesman in Srinagar.

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