Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kargil Visit

I had never dreamt that I would visit the town of Kargil. The name evokes the conflict of 1999 which almost escalated to a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. It evokes the name of operation Vijay where the soldiers of Indian Army braved the hail of bullets from the hill tops.

First view of Kargil town !

Main bazaar of Kargil

A village we visited in Kargil

Kargil is distinct form the rest of Ladakh as the populace is predominantly Muslim. They are radically different in their food habits and also dressing and customs. Their language is sparsed with urdu vocabulary and speak with a typical accent. Yet the people are cordial and extremely hospitable. When we refuse a second helping of tea and biscuits, they almost feel offended.

Women are extremely beautiful, however are very conservative in their dressing. Being a bunch of 6 boys, we were advised by the local not to stare / ogle at women there, lest we risk being lynched by the mob. We clicked few pics with the kids of our tea shop owner. I consider my best pic in Ladakh trip!

Smile :)

Kargil is a sleepy town quite close to the LOC. During the conflict there was heavy shelling from across the mountains. It sustained heavy casualties on the people of Kargil. The situation was such ironic that during the World cup match between India and Pakistan in 1999, whenver a Pakistani batsman hit a boundary there was a round of mortar Shells fired on Kargil. Just imagine few people losing their lives due to a game of cricket.

We heard the tales of bravery and misery of the people and the Army. Surprisingly the populace of Kargil is extremely patriotic to India, probably because of the irrational shelling from the other side of border. Without the active support of the locals and the Ladakh Scouts, it would have been impossible for the Indian army to have won the war.

Cross the mountain and you ‘ll be …. Behind the enemy lines L.O.C!

Kargil intrusions:

Suddenly the cattle and Dzos of the locals started disappearing from their households. Since they are main sources of income, people got furious and lodged reports at the local police station. As is usual the case, all their reports were ignored, until the number of complaints became too huge in number. However no sufficient action was taken.

As it was shown in Lakshya, few shepherds who had gone too far to graze their sheep had noticed some people carrying RPG propellers and rocket launchers and other heavy ammunition crossing from the border and heading towards the posts on the mountains. They rushed to the local authorities to complain about it. The civil authorities complained to the Army Brigadier who conveniently neglected the matter. Some say that he had accepted bribe running into crores. While some say that Army was not scared, because they thought that they could have recaptured those few posts whenever they wanted.

What totally escaped everyone was the scale of infiltration across the sectors of Drass, Batalik, Kargil etc. They had even captured strategic locations overseeing the Srinagar highway and could bombard the supply trucks at will and with great accuracy.

The civil authorities finally got vexed up and lodged a protest with the PMO. Then the HQ of Army was informed and they swung into action But by then they had captured strategic locations and were ready for combat.

No comments!

Logic behind the intrusion:

The occupation in 1999 was exactly similar to the one in 1948 in J & K which later became the P.O.K. After they tribal forces from NWFP of Pakistan occupied significant land. There was a ceasefire. After that there was international pressure on India not to launch an offensive to occupy the rest of Kashmir and to accept the LOC as the international border.

They were expecting similar thing to happen this time especially since US is paranoid of any war escalating in to a nuclear war.

We visited few villages on the LOC which were with Pakistan pre 1971 and were later occupied by Indian forces. They don’t permit non locals to the villages very close to the border since it is a very sensitive region. We went as close to the LOC as we could by a kucha road as we would not have been permitted to go by the road.

There were barbed wires along the road along with the signs saying “Area strewn with landmines. Don’t stray away from the Road”. !!!!

This was enough to scare us out of our wits, when the technician said that the army guys are watching us from their base camp below. Don’t make any suspicious gestures and certainly don’t click any pictures.

On the whole ... Kargil visit is something we are damn happy about.

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