Border villages evacuated as India expects Pak to retaliate to surgical strikes
India expects Pakistan to retaliate to the surgical strikes conducted by Indian forces late on Wednesday night. And in anticipation, the Central government has put the border areas of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Rajasthan on high alert.
The governments of these states are in emergency mode and have directed the authorities to evacuate villages within 10 kilometers of the International Border (IB). As a precautionary measure, schools have been shut till further orders.
Soon after India confirmed surgical strikes on seven terror 'launch pads' across the Line of Control, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to chief ministers of these border states, apprising them of the prevailing situation and possible retaliation by the Pakistan government. Singh has also asked these states to evacuate villagers from border areas to safer havens, and the political leadership has been asked to supervise and monitor the evacuation process.
As a result, many border villages in Punjab's Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts have been evacuated. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has directed authorities to set up camps for these villagers.
Reports suggest that announcements are being made from gurudwaras, asking villagers to move to safer places. Even village headmen and district officials have been asked to expedite the evacuation process.
While the leaves of government officials posted in border areas have been cancelled, hospitals are being cleared to prepare for any eventuality.
In Punjab, Pathankot's Civil Hospital is being prepared for the worse, in case Pakistan decides to attack India's border states.
Even the Border Security Force (BSF) decided to cancel the pomp and show of the Beating Retreat ceremony at the Wagah border in the wake of the current developments. BSF officials have confirmed that though the national flag will be lowered during the evening, this will not be followed by routine exercises.
Amid these developments, Badal also convened an emergency meeting of senior government officials to discuss the ongoing situation on the India-Pakistan border. He has also directed the chief secretary of the state to release Rs 1 crore to each of the districts to deal with any exigency
Meanwhile, border areas in Rajasthan have also been put on high alert, and arms training is being given to police officials in anticipation of an offensive from Pakistan. In Gujarat, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has requested fishermen to avoid the international maritime boundary line until further orders.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there are reports of an encounter between Indian forces and terrorists in the Mendhar sector of the state.
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