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Punjab braces for Indo-Pak stand off, armyman Amarinder advises caution

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

With tension along the International Border (IB) building up after the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army on terror launch pads in Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC), the border state of Punjab has started bracing itself for yet another military face-off between India and Pakistan.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has put the entire government and political machinery in an emergency mode, following reports of developments on the Indo-Pak border. Following a talk with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the state has started the process of evacuating people residing in the villages falling within 10 km of the IB.

Badal has directed the chief secretary, Sarvesh Kaushal, and the Director General of Police (DGP), Suresh Arora, to ask the concerned Deputy Commissioners (DCs) and Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) to oversee the entire evacuation process in the border districts of Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

Also read-India expects Pak to retaliate to surgical strikes, border villages evacuated

The DCs have been asked to identify suitable locations for setting up camps, and ensure that no resident being evacuated is put through any sort of inconvenience.

Speaking personally to the cabinet ministers and MLAs, Badal has asked them to camp in these border districts, in which their Assembly constituencies fall, and to keep a close liaison with the district administration to ensure the safe movement of residents .

The chief secretary has been directed to immediately release Rs 1 crore each to all the six districts, to meet any exigency arising out of the prevailing situation.

Sources said schools within 10 kms of the IB had been ordered to close, but staff had been asked to report for duty. It is learnt that the leave of government employees has been cancelled.

The Retreat Ceremony at Wagah border took place as usual, but no visitors were allowed on the spot. Vehicles moving towards Wagah were asked to return by BSF personnel posted en route.

Punjab cabinet's statement

Punjab shares a 553 km border with Pakistan which is manned by the Border Security Force (BSF). The state has seen action in the Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971.

Recalling the indomitable spirit of patriotism of the Punjabis to defend the national unity and integrity of the country, Badal asked them to demonstrate the same spirit, in consonance with their age-old ethos of valour and self-esteem.

Later, at a meeting held in the evening in Chandigarh, the Punjab council of ministers lauded the Prime Minister for decisively ordering this surgical operation to demolish the bases and camps of those acting with impunity against India's citizens.

It was stated that peace and communal harmony in the state has been one of the prime targets of these elements, as was evident in the attacks on Dinanagar and Pathankot.

It was stated that the governments of India and Punjab are totally aware of the challenge posed to life and property of those residing along the border with Pakistan, in view of the situation developing along the LoC and IB.

It was conveyed that the entire Punjab government machinery is geared to function most sensitively and effectively round the clock at the service of the people, to ensure that these brave and patriotic Punjabis are put to minimum inconvenience and discomfort.

Apart from all the government officials, ministers, legislators and others holding official positions would remain available at all times for advice and assistance to those affected by the Government of India's advice.

The council of ministers has appealed to the people of Punjab to remain united and vigilant against the enemy, and keep their calm and composure in the lofty traditions of patriotic fervor and selfless service.

Amarinder's advice

On the political front, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh welcomed the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the LoC. He said this was highly required, since Pakistan had failed to take measures that would stop attacks on Indian soil and installations, and was continuously in denial.

Amarinder said India was left with no option but to resort to surgical strikes against the terrorists. He said: "The strikes have proved India's charge beyond any doubt that the terrorists were being trained in and launched from Pakistan or PoK, with the help of the Pakistan Army."

Amarinder, a former Indian Army captain, congratulated the forces for the cleanly-executed strikes, which have left many terrorists dead. He said that Pakistan's complicity, which it had otherwise been denying so far, stands exposed.

He has, however, cautioned the government against evacuating people from border areas without proper arrangements. "Please don't try to create war refugees without, or at least before, the actual war," he warned.

Amarinder has cautioned against creating panic along the border belt in Punjab by asking people living within 10 km of the IB to move out.

He said such measures were not really required at this stage. "Rather, we did not evacuate people up to 10 km of the IB during the 1965 war," he said, adding this was absolutely uncalled for.

Speaking from his personal experience in the 1965 war, he said, he had seen people harvesting their crops while shelling was going on between the two armies. He said that asking people to move out at this time, when the paddy crop is ripe for harvesting, is wrong, as it will lead to unnecessary harassment and misery.

"Where will they go, where will they live, what will they eat and what will happen to their crops?" he asked.

AAP launches helpline

The Aam Aadmi Party has, meanwhile, instructed its volunteers to help people in the border areas. The party has launched a dedicated helpline with the number +91-8437791773 for border residents.

State convener Gurpreet Singh Waraich (Ghuggi) and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said volunteers should overwhelmingly contribute to serve the people of Punjab, before the formation of an AAP government in 2017. They said that people being evacuated from the border areas are in dire need of help at this crucial moment.

AAP leaders have issued instructions to party volunteers to be ready with first-aid kits and constitute groups to coordinate and reach out to the people in case of any SOS.

The volunteers have been asked to make make arrangements to serve food not only to the people, but also to provide for the cattle. They have been told to extend maximum cooperation to the soldiers on duty.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 29 September 2016, 9:56 IST