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Stray shell finds boy target

Hazaribagh, July 21: Had 10-year-old Vikas carried his plate and bowl to the school, close to his home, for the mid-day meal today, he would perhaps have been alive now.

But the child had forgotten his plate and was sent back home to fetch it around noon. He merrily skipped back, when a deafening explosion lifted him 15 feet in the air, killing him on the spot, yards away from the school.

A 81-mm mortar fired by the BSF had strayed into Silwar village, barely 8km from here, instead of the usual target of a hill on the other side of the village. Had the mortar fallen closer to the middle school, a far greater tragedy would have unfolded as there were over 100 students and teachers there at the time. But while splinters damaged the school building, nobody inside was injured.

BSF maintained a studied silence on the “accident” till late in the evening, when it announced that the father of the deceased would be given employment by the agency.

The BSF firing range has witnessed casualties before but villagers were always blamed for straying into the range in search of empty shells. Sometimes mortars had delayed explosion and took innocent lives. The usual practice is to make announcements before hand and also put up black flags in a 10km radius to indicate that the firing-range is engaged.

Today also the practice was followed but there is no explanation why the mortar was fired in a different direction today. Silwar, said villagers, fell outside the 10km radius. This was also the first time, they claimed, that a mortar strayed into the village.

BSF men in the past had left the firing range without collecting or defusing shells that failed to explode, said villagers. Children and youngsters had paid with their lives when they innocently picked them up, they said and demanded that it be shifted immediately. Irate villagers blocked Vishnugarh road for nearly five hours, demanding the closure of the range.

Six villagers, including women and children, sustained splinter injuries. They were administered first aid at Silwar and referred to Sadar hospital for further treatment.

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