Beautiful article in Rediff on life at LoC. Read it all since its a long read:Exclusive: Salute that soldier at the LoC
"Line of Control -- what comes to your mind when you think about it?" asks Major Anurag Chaturvedi, sitting in the front seat of the Maruti Gypsy as we drive towards a forward post guarding the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
The officer, a native of Rajasthan, is stationed at a place which does not have a name; only a number -- indicating its location from sea level.
This morning he has left at 4.30 am to pick us up -- soldiers at the LoC say their day begins at night when infiltrators often use the shroud of darkness to cross into Indian territory.
But that hardly means that the day is any better and to prove this the commanding officer of one of the battalions guarding the LoC stops the car en route and asked, "Can you see anything beyond the periphery of this forest?"
It is early afternoon and it is calm. There is a stillness in the wooded landscape flecked with hills, the last village is left 15 kilometres behind, ahead lies the India-Pakistan Ceasefire Line, famously known as the LoC, defended by the Indian Army -- where at one point in this area the enemy post lies just 70 metres away.
Here 'Eyeball to Eyeball' is not just a figure of speech; it means that and only that.
From these border posts, soldiers keep a strict watch -- 24x7x365 -- defending the Line of Control. Keeping a day and night vigil to prevent Pakistani infiltrators from crossing into India.
The posts are small -- almost makeshift structures -- but are formidable and crucial to India's defences.
Some have seen bloody action in every war with Pakistan, where men have had to fight to the last man and the last bullet in the face of enemy attack.
"The post was attacked by Pakistan several times -- again and again -- over three days during the 1971 war, but it did not fall," a young officer entrusted with defending that post explains. "If this post goes, the battleground is lost. It will be very difficult to recapture it."
A different infantry battalion now mans this post. Most of its soldiers were not even born in 1971, but speak with great admiration of the soldiers who held on to this post unrelentingly 40 years ago. A small memorial salutes the men who died fighting here.
Up ahead, in the precincts of another post that gives us a bird's eye view of the LoC and Pakistan, is another memorial to those who died defending this front.
Apart from saluting our martyrs, it also extends solemn tribute to the fallen Pakistani soldiers -- 'Homage also to enemy soldiers killed' reads the last line of the plain marble plaque.
The men here guard their territory zealously. Away from family, human habitation, cell phone communication, theirs is a 24x7x365 job which comes with no weekend or festival breaks.
Their post is their home.
"You could take a picture of my post from anywhere -- aerial view, bottom view, side view, sky view -- any which view and I will be able to tell you the line of sight from where you've taken it," says Major Anurag Chaturvedi, a tough officer who has served on the China border and was on the search team looking for the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy's helicopter in the Nalamalla jungles in September 2009.
To the lay-eye all posts may look almost alike. Some on towers, some in bunkers, with sandbags and narrow windows armed with sophisticated rifles aimed in readiness. Men in bullet-proof jackets and helmets, carrying guns as easily as we carry shoulder bags.
Raising a curtain made of bamboo logs stringed together, Major Neeraj Sundaram -- a second generation soldier also from the Gorkha Rifles -- points to the enemy posts across and in the direction from where Pakistani attacks have come in the past.
"That river that you see, we have to keep a watch on it because it has been used by infiltrators in the past," he says. "The difference between them and us is that they have villages upfront. They bring their cattle to the forward slopes to graze and these guys come along with them, have a look and go back. If five guys come, four may go back and one may stay back, so we have to keep a constant watch."
The stray dog being another dependable alarm that also serves as a stress buster for men at the border. At every post there is one -- in one battalion it is named dhaai, Hindi for two-and-a-half, which is a location within the post periphery.
Behind a bandh-cum-ditch, to counter an enemy tank attack, young Lieutenant K Navin Kumar, just out of the Indian Military Academy into his first posting, is located at a post almost breathing distance from the enemy.
"The listening drill is most important for us. We can hear them talk, listen to their vehicle movements," says the enthusiastic officer from the Grenadiers Regiment.
At the LoC, "where even moonlight does not reach some places," the men begin to trust their ears more than their eyes.
While the soldiers guard their posts, their team comprises an army dog and when they speak about the number of men stationed here, they make it a point to include the dog, a soldier in his own right.
Last year, 15 Indian soldiers lost their lives in counter infiltration/counter-terrorism operations; 45 others were seriously injured defending the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
One of them, Lieutenant Navdeep Singh -- who was awarded the Ashok Chakra, the highest gallantry award in peacetime this Republic Day -- was just 25 years old.
The terrain is difficult, the jungle is thick; in the night it is often difficult to know whether the moving figure is an animal or a man. But these pale out when confronted with what lies on the other side of the LoC.
"Can you trust the person across? Never! Since '48 we have not been able to trust him. There is a ceasefire on, but despite that you don't know what he will do next," says an officer who has seen a friend die in front of him fighting terrorists in Srinagar.
In the face of harsh weather, tough terrain and a hostile enemy, these soldiers hold the peace against tremendous odds.
Young men -- in their 20s and 30s -- who 'stand on the wall', keeping the watch as they defend one of the world's most volatile borders.
"You can call us the CEOs of 800 men," says Colonel Nair, slapping the back of a jawan, "but the difference is that I will give my life for him and I know he will do the same for me -- 200 per cent and without a doubt."
"When the fire comes, I will stand in front of him and he will stand in front of me. That is the kind of faith we have."