I'm a proud man, says BSF martyr's father

The volatile India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir continue to devour our uniformed young men at a steady rate. Krisna Kumar Pandey lost his son Vijay, a 26-year-old BSF constable who made the supreme sacrifice on June 3, 2018 on the Indo-Pakistan border. Speaking to LokMarg at his village Sathgaon in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Pandey broke down several times while talking of Vijay, preparations for whose wedding were on when the news of his death came in.

Vijay’s wedding invitation cards had been distributed. There were about two weeks left for the big day and there was a mix of anxiety and happiness in the family. Vijay himself would be coming home in two days. The young members were insisting that a DJ music night be organized before the wedding. The family was discussing how much space the dance stage would need and how much extra cost it will incur… things like that. And then, it was like lightning struck us. God had other plans for my son, Vijay who was posted at the International Border with Pakistan in the Akhnoor sector. High ranking officials who came along with the body bag, told me Vijay was martyred on the night of June 3 when the enemy resorted to unprovoked firing at his post. What can one do? If God wrote untimely death in his destiny, we cannot replace it with marriage. His sisters had bought a sherwani and pagri for his wedding. But God wanted him to don the tricolor. I must tell you about my son’s childhood and how he was inspired to serve the country in uniform. From a young age, Vijay was mighty impressed with Lakkhi Chacha (Lakshman Pandey) who was a Subedar in the Indian Army. Every time, Lakkhi came home on holidays carrying an iron trunk and a blanket, Vijay would spend hours with him. He would listen Lakkhi’s stories about the life inside an Army camp, their routine, their drills, duties. He always wanted to be a soldier. That was his calling from the beginning. Once I took him to the local Dusshera mela, he chose a plastic gun and a tank for his toys. When he was in Class 8, he asked Lakkhi Chacha for his used Olive Green uniform and got it altered by the village tailor for his own use. The village elders were happy to see this passion in him. When he joined the BSF, the entire village celebrated. Today, the whole village is in mourning. That is the strength of a soldier’s uniform. Dead at 26, Vijay is a hero of our village. The officers who accompanied his body were surrounded by all the youth of the village. Nitesh, Virender, Gokul… they all wanted the officers to tell them about the recruitment process of armed forces. There is also a bit of anger in our village against the government decision to announce a ceasefire. You have tied the hands of our jawans while the enemy continues to violate his promises. There is grief in the family but not without a sense of pride. The sweets that were prepared for Vijay’s wedding were distributed amongst the people who gathered here to honour his mortal remains. We are also planning to build a memorial at the same ground where his tilak ceremony was to take place. The father of the girl who was to get married to Vijay came here and said he wants his granddaughter married to Vijay’s elder brother’s son to keep the two families united with a wedding bond. Even in his death, even in this moment of grief, Vijay makes me feel proud. This is a mixed bag of feelings which few will ever understand.

Also at Lokmarg

‘We want Shastri, not Manmohan or Modi’

—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

Life along the LoC Part II: Bunker Bravado

It was famously described as the most dangerous place in the world by former US President Bill Clinton. A ceasefire pact is supposed to be in place along this 740-km frontier, but the situation on the ground is quite different. A former infantry officer from one of the Indian Army’s most glorious regiments shares his LoC memories with Lokmarg. Some operational details have been withheld to maintain anonymity.

There’s a constant struggle for positional supremacy along the LoC. The Pakistanis try their best to destroy or disable our frontline bunkers and sometimes even try to take possession of one. We repay them in kind, shell for shell, bullet for bullet. One such incident in a northern district of Kashmir near the close of the last millennium threatened to spiral out of control and cause a larger conflagration. This is the story of how we did not let that happen. One of the strategic posts manned by a detachment of 10 soldiers led by a Junior Commissioned Officer was practically on the LoC. It had a splendid view of the Pakistani side and enabled suppressive fire, meaning a rain of bullets on attempted infiltration. One day, the Pakistanis cut loose with all they had on these bunkers—sub-machine guns, rockets, mortars. Wireless communication with this team went cold as soon as the firing began. We feared the worst even as return fire commenced. Later, when the firing calmed down, we got a radio message from one of our jawans. Their team leader had very wisely decided to relocate his men from the bunker to a temporary position as soon as the overwhelming Pakistani fire assault began. This jawan had snaked back to retrieve the radio set and inform us of their situation. There was no casualty on our side; the boys were okay. The bunkers were, however, being shot to pieces and the first thing to do was smash them back. The troops reorganised themselves and occupied firing positions behind boulders. We opened up with all we had, a blizzard of bullets and rockets on the opposite Pakistani positions. After the fire assault, the enemy fire continued to cover the bunker and the wide slope leading up to it which hampered our supply of ration, water and basic amenities to men who were cut off from the rest of the location. A possible Pakistani seizure of this post would have lit up the LoC up and down, but it had been averted for the time being by our massive return fire. This meant we had to shift focus on the next, and most important, mission:  sustaining this post administratively and operationally, for we could not hope to sustain fire from the Pakistanis on open positions without casualties. We had a plan, a crazy plan. To our surprise, senior officers agreed immediately. We decided to create an ‘overhead tunnel’ all the way to the ravaged post, repair it stronger and occupy it again. The track would be covered overhead with the hard composite U-shaped sheets that we use to make bunkers and fortified with sandbags on its sides and top. These composite readymades can withstand small arms fire and shrapnel from artillery shells; with the sandbags they would be impregnable to what the Pakistanis were laying down on us non-stop. Every day after last light, a team of junior commissioned officers and I would analyse the pattern of persistent Pakistani fire and continue to build the ‘overhead tunnel’, working till first light. This task took us four weeks to accomplish. In keeping with Indian Army traditions, we leaders didn’t ask our men to do anything we wouldn’t do. We would be first into the exposed section of the growing tunnel. We filled sandbags and sewed them close as Pakistani bullets whistled and ricocheted all around us. Over four weeks, the tunnel grew from isolated sections across the field of Pakistani fire into a giant dotted line till it finally coalesced into one bulletproof route to the bunkers. The task was completed without any injury to men and damage to property. During the entire duration of operation, jawans were tasked on rotational basis whereas same set of leaders involved in operation continued to lead without any rest, operating through the night and preparing the next day for the coming night operation. Finally, we were in! We had braved the fire the Pakistanis thought we couldn’t, and pulled off the impossible. All the bunkers were fortified afresh and occupied again. Another Pakistani mischief along the LoC had been thwarted.
More Action from the LoC

Part I: Fire and Fury

Part III: Taking Them Out

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

Army to build three rail overbridges in Mumbai

My views on the illogical move to involve army to build the #Elphinstonebridge. pic.twitter.com/12X6fhpnXt

— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) October 31, 2017

“The army was to be a measure of last resort to be called upon in extreme emergency. Now it seems like it’s the 1st number on the speed dial,” said Abdullah.

Nirupam tweeted: “Calling Army to make a bridge in Mumbai underlines failure of corrupt Shiv Sena-BJP ruled BMC. Hope army will not be asked to fill potholes here.” Attacking the move, Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said the Indian Army must be given such responsibilities “only in dire emergencies”. Terming it an “endorsement of the abject failure” of the railway, which indicated that its not capable of building even FOBs and has to call in the army, he demanded the Railway Minister’s resignation. Rail Yatri Sangh National President Subhash Gupta termed the decision as “a slap in the face of railway engineers” and one which raised “serious question marks” over the capabilities of the massive engineering department. “It’s the duty of the railway engineering departments and their engineers to construct bridges on an ongoing basis throughout the year. If the government feels that army can do it faster, then the railways should start recruiting people from the armed forces,” he said. The proposal had been first mooted by Mumbai BJP President Ashish Shelar. Earlier, the Army helped construct a foot overbridge during the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games when an under-construction bridge outside Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the event, collapsed days before the games were to start. The new bridge was built within five days. The Army was also involved in making pontoon bridges across the Yamuna last year when a World Culture Festival was organised on the flood plains of the river by the Art of Living group. Involving the Army for the private event was criticised by many. (IANS) // ]]>