At least 60,000 Indians have fled their homes in the last five days amid heavy shelling and a massive buildup of troops on both sides of the Pakistan-India border in Kashmir, a state minister said.
Kashmir Housing Minister Ghulam M Shah said the state administration was battling to provide food and shelter to the thousands who had evacuated their villages near India's shared border with Pakistan.
"We are faced with an alarming exodus of villagers from the tense India-Pakistan border," said Shah.
A family moves with their belongings on a tractor from their home on the Pakistan-India border towards Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2001. The family was moving fearing tensions between the two south Asian neighbors following an attack on the Indian parliament Dec. 13 and exchanges of fire in the disputed Kashmir region. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
"We have built hundreds of makeshift camps in 27 government schools and colleges. We have created an emergency 10-million-rupee (210,000 dollar) fund for housing and relief operations," he added.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since a bloody December 13 assault on India's parliament, which New Delhi accuses Pakistan's military intelligence of masterminding. Islamabad denies the allegation.
The attack, and the rhetoric that followed, had prompted both sides to amass troops along their border and engage in cross-border shelling.
At least two civilians were injured when Pakistani troops fired shells across the tense Line of Control (LoC) which divides disputed Kashmir, Indian army Brigadier P.C Das told AFP Sunday.
"Pakistani troops have been shelling the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu. There have also been bursts of machine-gun firing in the Samba, R.S Pura, Pallanwalla and Akhnoor sectors," said DAs
"There has been considerable damage to civilian houses and property," he added.
The two nuclear-capable rivals regularly exchange fire in the Kashmir region, but the incidents have become more frequent in recent days as tensions mount.
India has also started a massive mine-laying exercise near the Line of Control.
One Indian soldier was killed and five others injured Sunday in Jammu when landmines they were laying along the border with Pakistan accidentally exploded, an army official said.
Another 19 Indian soldiers were killed Friday near a border post at Gamnewala, around 70 kilometres (44 miles) from Jaisalmer town in the western desert state of Rajasthan in accidental landmine explosions.
Copyright © 2001 AFP