If anyone thought Punjab was safe from cross-border terrorism, their belief lay in tatters after terrorists suspected to be from Pakistan attacked Dinanagar, in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, last month.
Smuggling across Punjab’s border with Pakistan had always been an issue, but the attack served as a grim reminder to greater challenges faced by those guarding the state’s international border.
Although the state’s entire land border with Pakistan is fenced, over 50km of the riverine belt is a major headache.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s statement — that the attackers came through river Ravi — should prompt the BSF to rethink their measures, as a major challenge is guarding the points from where rivers Satluj and Ravi enter Pakistan.
But BSF director-general D K Pathak said his force was ready to deal with fresh challenges.
Though fenced and well lit by floodlights, checking infiltration along this stretch remains a work in progress for the BSF. Infiltrators from Pakistan are known to push in arms, drugs and fake currency.
The challenges remain steep despite fencing coming up in the early 1990s. Punjab’s border with Pakistan, from Dhinda near Jammu to Nazeki near Ganganagar in Rajasthan, has remained the traditional route of drug supply from Pakistan and Afghanistan to India."All kinds of challenges are there when you are guarding borders since you don’t know what sort of activity goes on across the fencing. In Punjab, the biggest task is to keep a check on the supply of drugs and fake currency," said BSF inspector general (IG), Punjab Frontiers, Anil Paliwal.
As per BSF data, heroin and opium are the most smuggled items via this particular border stretch. Officials say locals and farmers living along the border are an easy target for Pakistani smugglers, who use them as conduits to push contraband.
Agricultural land in proximity to the border adds another problem. “The farmers are never ready to leave their fields for even a single day.
Since the fencing on the border gets old and requires replacement many times, to carry repair operations or install new equipment gets tough for us,” said Paliwal.