The 200-km stretch of the international border in Jammu is one of the country’s most volatile stretches to guard. The entire stretch is fenced, barring a few kilometres due to the inhospitable terrain. Pakistan offers no let-up in firing all through the year as part of its strategy to provide cover to push in infiltrators.
“This year, infiltration attempts have seen a 100% increase. In 2015, we witnessed 45 infiltration bids in the Jammu sector, which is quite a high number,” says BSF inspector general (Jammu frontier) Rakesh Sharma.
Guarding the border requires more than just the routine physical strength and mental endurance, particularly in winter.
NO ORDINARY JOB IN NUMBING COLD
“Guarding border posts is not an ordinary job. For hours together you have to be extremely alert to spot any movement and quick to react. Despite the best clothing in this weather, the body starts getting numb but you can’t allow it to distract you,” says a BSF constable posted at a forward post.
He is among three BSF personnel deployed at each forward post. They take turns to stare through binoculars peering through the fence right inside enemy territory.
In addition, a patrol party of 10 men secures a stretch of 3 km with vehicular patrol backing it. The frequency of the vehicular patrol increases as the density of fog increases.
Wearing bulletproof jackets and helmets, armed with assault rifles and binoculars, the patrol party is doubly tasked to check the rear side of the fence to thwart a possible terrorist attack. The team does not follow a specific route and trudges along fields with slush and water.
The BSF IG says intelligence inputs suggest 70 terrorists are active across the border. The last major terror strike in the Jammu region was in Kathua in March.
HIGH ALERT IN FOG
While one member in the post stands guard, two of his colleagues try to catch some sleep in their sleeping bags, which don’t seem to offer much warmth. The post is open and chilly winds blow right through from the vast expanse. A slight movement and dozens of birds take flight, alerting the guard.
“The visibility drops to a few metres in winter. We are on heightened alert as such times are a prized opportunity for the infiltrator to sneak in. Engulfed in fog, one tends to feel a sense of isolation or aloofness for brief moments. It’s a very tough job but we have been trained to act swiftly and overcome the odds,” says a company commander in his fifties. He leads a team of recruits.
GETTING TECH WISE
The fence along the Indo-Pak border in Jammu has helped in reducing infiltration. Besides, the BSF has gone for a tech upgrade and installed thermal imagery cameras to record every movement round the clock. Its data is collected at the control room where the daily feed is checked. Night vision binoculars and laser guns are the latest inductions. Plans are afoot to introduce smart fencing.
“We are aware of our challenges. Surveillance, communication and intelligence systems have been upgraded,” adds IG Sharma.