Sleep in Peace; We are on the Borders

A fauji’s Daughter

I am an officer posted on the line of control. Yesterday was Sunday, and also Dussehra. Got to know it only from the newspapers that are spread before me- a day late by the time they reach my post. The nice part is that I receive a whole bundle after they have been pored over in the headquarters.

We went out on an ambush last night. There was information that an infiltration attempt could be made through our area. I have been receiving the same information daily since the last six months. Hopefully we will have a fire fight tonight.

Seven of us slipped out of our post, 300 m from the line of control, after last light. A half hour walk and we deployed in two groups. The weather gods were not happy (maybe because I didn’t know Navratras had begun). Light rain and mist descended and visibility was down to three metres. We try and peer through the white haze till the eyes hurt. I hear a soft snore on my left and give a hard nudge. Tomorrow, over a hot cup of tea after we return to the post, we will laugh and tease him.

It’s midnight, cold and miserable. I flex my index finger to make sure it slips into the trigger guard in time to shoot the terrorist who might suddenly appear three steps from me. Suddenly, the chatter of machine guns jolts us out of complacency. It is followed by the soft ‘thump, thump’ of mortars ejecting their bombs. I am glad for the distraction, as the whole ambush is now fully alert.

We wait for the mortar bombs to fall. Shit… they seem to be falling on my post. There are mixed feelings running through me. I am safe, but what about my soldiers on the post. The firing grows in intensity- rocket launchers and mortars open up from our side. It’s frustrating because we can’t see anything. I briefly think of returning to the post but have a job to do tonight, and there are good soldiers back on the post.

We return in the morning and thankfully all is well. One splinter injury-flesh wound only, and a living shelter damaged. We all sit around a breakfast of hot puris and bhindis, exchanging anecdotes, feeling proud about how we weathered one more day on the line of control.

A three hour nap and the first newspaper is spread before me. “Dropping guard at the LOC” is the headline of a Mail Today article. It says ‘Indian troops have been sitting ducks’ in the August incident and that the foiling of infiltration attempt in Keran ‘has been taken with a pinch of salt’. Harinder Baweja in Hindustan Times says that the Army has been ‘found wanting’. Tribune wanted to know ‘how porous is the security system’ on the LoC. Asian Age informs me that ‘Army is under attack from the MoD’. I always thought those attacking us were across the LoC. Should I now look over my shoulder?

A large number of journalists are now questioning our tactics along the Line of Control. It is easy to pass judgement when sitting in air-conditioned offices and speaking on the telephone to ‘well-informed sources’ who have an equally comfortable chair. It is also unfortunate that some of our retired officers have also jumped on the media bandwagon to slam our ‘defensive mindset’ and ‘lapses’. Did no soldiers die when they were commanders? Has the army suddenly forgotten its ethos because some of our officers have retired?

Let me not quote facts and figures because I have no access to them. My senior officers tell me that the security situation in J&K is improving. Violence, infiltration levels, civilian causalities are down, and there is less fear on the faces of people. I believe my seniors because I see it everyday.

Can I do more? Maybe I can eke a little more out of my aching muscles and sleep filled eyes. Will it help? I don’t think so, because the newspapers will not cover what I do, but look for the one who does not. I just hope I am not one of their victims.

I am an Indian Army officer- proud and confident. I know what I have to do. No other profession in the world demands that you lay down your life in the defence of people you do not even know. If you question my commitment, please be prepared to wear the Uniform and man the LoC in my place.

P.S. Can’t avoid the last dig at the media. Read Sebastian Junger ‘War’.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana !

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani !!
                     — Srimadbhagvadgita, Chapter 2, verse 47

It means: Follow your passion and do not worry about results. If one puts in hard work and is determined to create a path of his own, success will follow.

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