Wait and watch forever

National

A small stream snaking through the Haji Peer pass serves as the Line of Control at Silikote village in Uri sector. And four layers of barbed wire are the only barrier between Indian and Pakistani soldiers on either side of the LoC.

A ceasefire in November 2003 had brought years of silence to the forward posts along the 980-km Line of Control from Poonch to point NJ 9842 in Ladakh. The silence lasted until October last year, when it was broken by firing and mortar shelling in Churunda village. Since then, the ceasefire has been violated frequently in the Uri and Poonch sectors, the latter only 40 km from Silikote village.

And it has made the always vigilant soldiers warier than ever. From fortified stone and steel bunkers, men in olive, who hail from various states, keep an eye on Pakistan's bunkers along the Haji Peer pass. The jawans in the Silikote bunkers are particularly alert, because it is from the Pakistani bunkers here that Indian pickets in Churunda, as well as those in Silikote itself, have been targeted with 82 mm and 60 mm mortars and machine fire.

Earlier this year, three civilians were killed when Pakistani soldiers targeted Indian pickets at Churunda village. "Whenever firing starts on the LoC, an alert is sounded across all bunkers," says Lieutenant Anees-ur-Rehman of Manipur, who was commissioned into the Army only three months ago. "It is always they who start the firing; we retaliate," he adds.

The young officer's duties have been hectic since his posting here, either leading preventive missions by night, heading patrols by day, or going through training sessions with jawans. "Our duty hours are 247," says Rehman, while preparing for a preventive night ambush with a group of jawans. "Laying a night ambush is a daily activity on the LoC to prevent infiltration. It is sort of an adventure and yet tough on a jawan or an officer, who has to stay put at one place for eight to 12 hours without making a sound."

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