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An ordinary soldier's life in J&K

india Updated: May 03, 2007 22:41 IST
Arun Joshi
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All the time they are in their brick and mud bunker or sand bag pill boxes-looking through narrow holes as to what is happening outside.

Their fingers are on the trigger, their eyes darting – looking for anyone who could be a would be grenade thrower or hiding a weapon to shoot at them.

This has been the life of soldiers, paramilitary troops for the past 18 years in Jammu and Kashmir.

They have spent winters holed up in bunkers, did not venture to enjoy the cool breeze of spring, nor have they had the liberty to have some fans to cool themselves in summers.

An uncertainty of some one shooting or throwing grenades at them is the only certainty. There are no battle lines. The entire territory is hostile, they perceive. And when they presume anything suspicious, they tend to lose their cool.

This ordinary soldier on the streets of Kashmir has no luxury unlike his officers to move around in a cavalcade. The officers move with their families - and the ordinary soldiers are guarding them all the time.

If a grenade comes, they are the first to be hit. If some one fires, they are the first to die or get injured. And, if they retaliate they are the first to be booked for "excesses". The officers get away with everything.

"Such factors add to the frustration of the ordinary soldiers, whose world has been reduced to a 8 by 10 feet bunker, and for whom the only protection is his gun. That multiplies our stress level," a trooper said who under the rules of reporting cannot be identified.

It is because of these conditions that at times, they are unable to apply rationale in the moments of challenges.

He is not only to ensure that his area stays free of any violence, especially when he is on a guard duty at a VIP residence or an important installation. Also, when he is on a patrol duty with the processions, more than his own he has to ensure the security and safety of the men in the procession. He keeps on looking for suspicious people and things all around. And still, terrorists have an edge over him.

"There is nothing wrong with the training. But long hours in cubicles of mud are a readymade formula for frustration and the men loose their cool. He needs a breathing time, timely leave and reunion with the family. That is not happening. And that is where the things are going wrong," an officer analysed.

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