Aanganpathri (Line of Control): Sub-zero temperature, massive snowfall and high velocity winds are an alien experience for Havaldar M Kumar Velu, who grew up in warm and humid Tamil Nadu. But as he negotiates 12-feet deep snow at an altitude of 10,500 feet along the fence on the Line of Control (LoC) at an ungodly 4am, worry-lines don’t furrow his head. It’s the call of duty, “nothing less than religion’’.
“Every day is a challenge for me. Protecting the LoC against the enemy is a matter of honour for all of us. We will die but not let anyone cross over,” says Velu. This sums up the mood at Fox-land, the company headquarters of 40 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), which has been deployed on the LoC forward base.
The soldiers are on extra vigil now. It is summer and time for infiltrators to sneak in. There are already reports that 2,000 to 2,500 militants are training in camps in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and looking to cross the borders soon. For Velu and his colleagues in the Aanganpathri company, the hostile weather can wait.
“There are approximately 42 training camps across the border. Thirty-four of them are active in the PoK,” Gurdeep Singh, brigadier general of staff (BGS) of the Jammu based 16 Corps, says.
The soldiers of the Aanganpathri company know the gravity of their job. They guard a strategically crucial route, the shortest for infiltration. It connects Jammu and Kashmir through mountains south of Pir Panjal. The company covers 22 kilometres of the LoC and has some posts at an altitude of 12,000 feet. Terrorists use the Makhni Nallah to enter the valley. It is this threat that makes this company one of the important components of the army’s anti-infiltration strategy.
“The inclement weather, a combination of snow, rain, fog and high-speed winds reduces the visibility and enables terrorists to infiltrate. Our aim is to negate infiltration or ex-filtration,” Major DK Bansal, company commander of 40 RR, says.
What makes the work of Velu and his colleagues unenviable is their company is deployed opposite to some of the launch pads established by the Pakistani troops on their side of the LoC.
“Terrorists are launched from these detachments,” said Bansal. The army has a three-tier strategy to foil the designs of militants in summer. It includes area domination, aggressive patrolling, laying ambushes, gathering intelligence and streamlining surveillance.
Velu may be a small cog in the entire operation, but at 4 in the morning, fighting the freezing weather, he is focussed on his job. “National duty comes before everything else,’’ he says.
Two ultras killed
The army on Sunday foiled another infiltration bid, by killing two militants who were trying to sneak in from Keran sector on the LoC in Kupwara district. Two AK rifles, six magazines, 96 rounds, three grenades, an ICOM radio set and a wire cutter were found on them.