Ground Report: Highest Ceasefire Violations Along Line Of Control In 17 Years

At Hamipur village near the border, a group of men and women says they owe their success to the Army's efforts

For the last one year, LoC saw highest number of ceasefire violations in the last 17 years

Srinagar:

There is uneasy calm at a forward post in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district. Just few hundred metres away is Kohat in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). For the last one year, the Line of Control (LoC) has seen the highest number of ceasefire violations in the last 17 years. Over 4,000 firing incidents have reported. On an average, 10 to 12 incidents have been reported every day along the 740-km LoC.

Throughout the year, soldiers tasked with defending the LoC have returned fire at enemy positions from fortified positions. A cross-LoC gunfight can break out anytime, the soldiers know.

Just a week ago, India fired artillery in this sector, responding to a Pakistani attack. Gunfire and mortar shelling are routine. A ceasefire agreement signed between India and Pakistan in 2003 lies in tatters.

November saw the most intense shelling in this sector in recent years. 14 soldiers gave their lives for the country along the LoC. The Army says their retaliation was fierce and inflicted more casualties on Pakistan.

For soldiers, being constantly alert is part of the daily routine. Underground posts are being observed almost constantly by the enemy, said an Army officer. As the Army defends the LoC, villagers nearby also bear the brunt of Pakistani shelling.

Mohammad Farooq Chauhan's home was hit by shells in July this year, killing his father Mohammad Rafiq, mother Rafia Bi and 15-year-old brother Mohammad Irfan.

Farooq, who was working as a driver in Saudi Arabia when tragedy hit his home, says he has lost a sense of purpose to live and there is no guarantee when shells will land at his home again.

"Mom, day and brother were sitting here when shells hit our home... This is our home, where will go from here? We just had lunch but we don't know whether we can make it to dinner. No one knows where shells can land. Nothing is left now, entire family is ruined," says Mohammad Farooq.

His cousin Shakeel Ahmad, who was working as a porter with the Army, lost his leg in 2012 after he walked on a landmine. Despite his condition, Shakeel tried to work again as a porter with the Army, but eventually lost his job.

"For last two years, I'm jobless and I have no work to earn my living. Army told me 'you are disabled' and can't work with them anymore," says Shakeel.

Porters have often become target of landmines and attacks from Pakistani army. In January, two porters were killed in a Pakistan Border Action Team (BAT) attack.

The 7,400km-long LoC cannot be monitored by human eyes alone. A state-of-the-art surveillance system based on a host of sensors helps the Army detect intruders, who are then taken out in encounters.

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This is a part of the Army's surveillance system where soldiers constantly keep an eye out for movement of terrorists, operating from launch pads across the LoC. These launch pads are often nothing more than small village homes located close to the LoC, said an officer.

While a fence has already been installed along the LoC, the Army has put high-resolution cameras on it.

Before troops are deployed on the LoC, they are taken for advanced training in Rajouri. Some 30,000 troops including officers are trained at the corps battle school every year.

Senior officers say gathering intelligence, jungle and urban warfare, fighting an invisible enemy, dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines are some of the key areas of operational orientation.

And as part of a comprehensive border management programme, the Army says it a priority to reach out to locals by empowering them through training and vocational courses to help young people eventually join the security forces, if they want.

At Hamipur village near the border, a group of men and women says they owe their success to the Army's efforts. Some of them have already made it to the Border Security Force and the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

"We live in a border area and I wanted to join Army and guard my nation. I have qualified for the BSF after a recruitment drive," says Rohit Khajuria.

The focus is also increasingly on empowerment of women. Two women Army officers posted in the Jammu sector could be an inspiration for girls. They say after Permanent Commission for women in the Army, more can join.

"Whenever we interact in our personal or official capacity, we do try to motivate them to pursue armed forces as an option. Now with the Permanent Commission coming into the Army for women officers, certainly it adds on to the desire of girls to join," said Lieutenant Colonel Arthi Tiwari.

And as the Army is engaged in a standoff in Ladakh, maintaining a dominating position along the LoC has become even more crucial.