Why daily firing is an India-Pakistan practice match at the LoC
By Neeraj Mahajan
Soldier’s posted on the LoC are fighting two enemies at the same time. The one that they can see and fire at– in front of them and the more lethal, hidden enemy in their mind- boredom.
In such godforsaken places where it is difficult even to find a crow flying, boredom is a bigger danger than imminent death. Danger is something that one comes across in so many shapes and sizes, so frequently that it does not scare anymore…
Life at the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir can be dangerous and boring at the same time.
There are no roads; no traffic disturbances here at the same time no people. Everything is just the same, the same old faces you get to see are of the men in your platoon or battalion.
You have to walk for road-head (the place where all roads end) for at least a day to reach the base camp or weeks to reach the forward most picket. The soldiers here remain cut-off for more than six months of winter from the rest of the world.
It is a small world straight out of the sets of Big Boss where you need to store everything from condensed milk to tinned food and dry rations during summers for the next winters ahead. There are no mobile towers, internet, facebook or WhatsApp. What all this means is no news from the family for days on end. Except for the occasional bonus of fresh vegetables, fresh milk or letters from home, whenever the helicopters land to pick up a casualty or the convey of mules can make it through.
Otherwise, there is no difference between Sundays or Mondays…Every day begins with the same mine-sweeping and road clearing rituals.
Bomb disposal is a daily routine here. Special staff equipped with mine sweepers scan the whole area to ensure that no stray or forgotten land mine planted some 30 years ago in 1971 war shifted its position or drifted with the rainwater in the night. All routine activities start here only after the minesweepers have given all clear signal.
It might seem over dramatic, but the fact is that this is the world of guns, missiles, and land mines.
There is no means of entertainment for the soldiers posted here. There is no radio, TV or electricity to run CDs or DVDs. Being so close to the enemy lines you cannot afford to start noisy generators and give away your position for the enemy to drop a bomb.
Even a one-month-old newspaper or magazine is a treasure here.
Guess what do the Army jawans do to kill loneliness on the LoC?
Ironic though it may seem when the soldiers here get bored- the only time pass they have is to fire- keep firing aimlessly. This correspondent who stayed at the LoC for close to one week saw it happen.
This random firing has many benefits. One it invites the enemy soldier cooped up in a similar 2×2 bunker – on the other side of LoC- 30 meters away — come, let’s play.
The firing also warns potential infiltrators not to attempt ingress in this area as a border post is alert.
Invariably within minutes of the first fire, the enemy responds with equal and opposite intensity firing. Well, this marks the beginning of a free for all India-Pakistan match.
Under attack from the enemy, the first post invites its friends in a nearby picket in a mountain range higher than the enemy to fire at them.
The enemy also does the same by inviting its friends to join the game and soon the entire mountain ranges start reverberating with criss-cross fire.
It is an amazing sight to see any time in the day or night, even several times in day.
Once it starts, the noisy orchestra of light machine gun (LMG), medium Machine Gun (MMG), Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), Mortar and Missile fire goes on. That is till either a Bofors gun starts punding the area from a distance of at least 25 km away or the IAF or PAF pilots 100 km away, play spoilsport.
That is life, 24 x 7 x 365.
It’s such a routine that if it does not happen for a few days or hours, you start feeling something is wrong. Others in a radius of 5-10 km who are not participating in it; know what it’s all about to bother much.
All this kills boredom and is a good time pass.
Besides it proves a means of ensuring that weapons don’t rust and are working.
At the end of it—as a reward, soldiers warm his hands on the red-hot barrel of their guns.
Finally, this is the reason for the recurring demand for guns, ammunition, mine sweeping and counter-terrorism surveillance equipment. And why such demand always goes up, never down?