Discrimi-Nation III

Discrimi-Nation III: ‘Caste Is A Dormant Volcano’

For Devashish Jarariya, getting to grips with his caste was a life-changing development. He became a student activist and then joined the Bahujan Samaj Party to fight the caste discrimination he experienced during his school days. His perspective:

I was born in a middle-class family. My father was a government employee. We moved to the city when I was about six years old. I didn’t face any comment on my caste until I came to Class 9, though it’s not like I didn’t know what my caste is. In primary classes, I used only my name without my surname.

My father used the surname Jatav so my teachers added it to my name. It was in Class 8 that I used my family name for the first time. Some people still ask me why I don’t use the surname my father did.

The first instance of discrimination I remember is from Class 9 when a classmate refused to eat with me, saying I was a “low caste” and that his parents would thrash him if they got to know. Some classmates supported me, and I faced that situation. Later on, that classmate became one of my best friends. As one grows older, caste becomes like the air you breathe day in and out. I got by, however, because most of my friends were from the general category both in school and college. We did talk about caste, but it was peaceful: it seems caste has its boundaries, and if nobody crosses them coexistence is pretty much easier.

In my village, every caste has its own cluster of homes. I rarely visited other caste neighbourhoods in my childhood, something I don’t do even now as a matter of fact. I don’t remember going to any wedding in village that was between people outside my caste.

We never questioned this because it was the existing system. I didn’t have the intelligence to understand it then or I didn’t try to. The caste system works in different ways in rural and urban settings. Caste is a dormant volcano; if you work within the limits of the system, it is peaceful but things change rapidly if you start exploring and questioning it.

Caste differences for me were tied in with the issue of reservation; it was the flashpoint. I knew how to defend my position on it but also understood that contrary views on this cannot be harmonised. You can support reservation or you can hate it. The reservation policy doesn’t hurt relationships with people from the unreserved categories because a certain level of acceptance has been reached.

But things changed for me when I started taking a stand on issues as my public life commenced. I start writing about what’s happening in society which the middle class doesn’t bother to look at, or at least as I presumed.

I realised my growing understanding was at odds with the balance of system; the dormant volcano inside began to rumble. The more I wrote on caste atrocities, the more real my own caste identity became. It was like my whole life in the system was made up, and that the foundations of society were rotten.

With my Dalit identity coming to the fore, all those who knew me for years saw and felt the change in my outlook. For them, I am a changed person now. There were no caste problems in their world but I had injected harsh reality into it. When a Dalit was killed in Gujarat for twirling his moustache, I started a campaign #MrDalit #DalitWithMoustache.

My friends asked me what had happened to turn me to caste politics. I have tried to question the system. For instance, during the recent Dalit agitation on the dilution of the SC/ST Act, I confronted media houses to tell them that no Dalits were responsible for the violence. Now, being Dalit is my only identity for my friends and acquaintances; that’s how powerful the embed of caste in our society is. Even writing this piece will only add to my caste identification.

More From Discrimi-Nation 
Part II: The Dalit Life Sentence
Part I: Northeastern Distress

—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

Discrimi-Nation II

Discrimi-Nation II: The Dalit life sentence

, 35, a Delhi-based advocate reports on his own life: being a Dalit and having to fight caste discrimination every step of the way.

I come from the town of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, a place where every caste has its own cluster. My father, a former government official, gave me a name that would not give away the secret that we belong to the Dalit community. Given he was a respected government official, everybody wanted to associate with us. I would always be given a glass and plate from a different set of utensils, however, to drink and eat in.

I came to Delhi in 2008, searching for jobs and internships, all the time hoping that I would not have to find myself in such caste conflicts. I expected to be free from the caste-based discrimination that I thought was only prevalent in villages and small towns. My assumption was that people in cities barely cared about caste. But here I was, with my confidence a little more than just shattered this time.

I realised the discrimination worked in whole new ways in the city. At school in Farrukhabad, I was a bright student. My teachers showed interest in me, but with their tendency to know my caste, these doting gurus stopped paying attention to me. This killed my confidence.

I thought teachers are supposed to bridge the gaps and strengthen moral values in the society, but they were actively promoting caste discrimination. I could not bring myself to tell my father what I was going through in school. All these frustration-inducing incidents built up to the point where my father started refusing dinner invitations only because of the discriminatory undertones in most of the people’s conduct.

The effect of the discrimination grew so much on me that throughout my college, I did not reveal it to anyone that I was a Dalit. I lived like a Thakur. I had great friends there and yet I felt suffocated. The fact that I could not share this part of my identity anchored me in an ocean of exasperation. The discrimination even chased me through when I was looking for accommodation here in Delhi.

Getting asked about my caste was routine but luckily, my stars presented me with a landlord who was only concerned about the timely payment of rent. This finally gave me a little respite, enabling me to see the ray of hope. Once a very senior lawyer asked what I was doing in the legal profession being a Dalit. “This profession was not meant for Dalit community,” he quickly concluded.

I was startled, yet replied that his advertisement for junior associate and interns did not mention that Dalit candidates were not eligible to apply. Had he mentioned it, I would have never applied. That day, I realised that no matter how much I try veiling this part of my identity, it will always pop back up as a problem given the societal constructs we live with.

I decided to stop looking for a job and started my own practice. The initial days were extremely difficult. Finding work and ensuring livelihood to make ends meet were challenging but I used it as a learning curve. Being a Dalit lawyer in Delhi does have its own quirks. People are ignorant of the crime of calling Dalits by their caste, or “bhangi”.

They are so ignorant that they will cross the line, just get the momentary feeling of superiority. There are also those who do not cross the line verbally, but their body language says it all. There have been instances where the children of my other Dalit friends were not invited to birthday parties of kids, and if they were, nobody would play with them.

The issues are numerous. They range from not letting us ride the traditional mare in our own wedding processions to not letting us into temples to marrying in upper castes. What we are left with is a predetermined source of income. It has been close to a decade since I have been practicing law and I realize not much has changed.

I still get cases to defend a couple that eloped because of they belong to different castes. Even though my friends think that caste-based discrimination is wrong, but they may too hesitate if a family member wants to marry a Dalit. What we are always left with is living life with a bad taste in our mouths.

More from Discrimi-Nation
Part I: Northeastern Distress
Part III: ‘Caste is a Dormant Volcano’

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

Discrimi-Nation I

Discrimi-Nation I: Northeastern Distress

Our Constitution makes us all equal, but India remains a land of all sorts of discrimination—caste, gender, religion, race. For all its melting pots and cosmopolitan bravado, New Delhi is no different. Thirteen years ago, Alana Golmei, a Ph.D. from Manipur, came to the Capital in search of a better life. Her story:

Every man and woman from the Northeast is distressed with the way they are treated in the capital city. They survive rapes, face sexual advances, brave physical assaults from locals and what have you. The worst-case scenario is for the girls who work late hours, or are employed at spas, massage parlours or other unconventional means to make a living.

My first job here was with a charity organisation in Nehru Place. I would commute from Dwarka to Nehru Place in a jam-packed bus. Men took opportunity whenever there was one to pass lewd comments or touch inappropriately. They would call me names (that I would prefer not to mention here as I still find them demeaning). Some bluntly made jokes about my Mongoloid features.

With poor job opportunities in Manipur and big responsibilities on my shoulders, I had come to Delhi in 2005. That was the time when there was a ban on women employment back home. Despite being a Ph.D in Sociology, I could not find a decent job. No matter how educated you were, in Manipur you would not get more than a ₹4,000-job to begin with.  Like every girl from the Northeast, I stepped out in want of a better financial future. I always wanted to teach. After coming to Delhi, I started applying to colleges. Not being well-versed in Hindi was a major handicap. I would be called for interviews, but the language barrier spoiled my prospects.

Harassment and racial slurs are common. I still believe that men and women from the northeastern part of the country are relatively more stylishly dressed. This is not to do with money or class; it is a cultural thing. And because we have a strong style statement, many people take us to be women of easy virtue.

On the rare occasions that I approached police, I could notice them jeering and sharing jokes about me with other colleagues right in front of me, for I didn’t know Hindi. Such experiences on a daily basis could break any aspiring youth. But the need for a better life and opportunity kept me going.  Two years after moving to Delhi, I met a group of boys and girls who shared their experiences of sexual abuse and racial slurs in Delhi. We decided to form a support group so that others from Northeast do not have to suffer what we did. Or at least, they have someone to approach for redressal of their issues. I soon realised the magnitude of the challenge before the group.   

Our support group would constantly face threats from the locals for approaching police. The local community would even resist our intervention and help. People would not give us accommodation on rent; those who did would charge us more than water and electricity bills. Indecent advances were common even at the time of negotiations for housing or work.  

Dealing with the police initially proved a huge challenge. They would not take our complaints seriously and more often found fault in our conduct. We often needed to pull strings to push the police take us seriously.

But I find satisfaction in what I am doing now. Our foundation helps the community in distress and also assists them in the tiresome process at court or police station to get them justice. Apart from my job as a researcher, my regular day includes holding sensitization workshops with the locals and the police.  Political statements are one thing but we have to make people realise that the Northeast is a part of India and we are Indians, just like them.


(Alana Golmei, 42, is a researcher and the founder of the North East Support Centre & Helpline)

More from Discrimi-Nation
Part II: The Dalit life sentence
Part III: ‘Caste is a dormant volcano’


—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg


Manju Devi

For Manju, the platform is a workplace

She has been the sole breadwinner for her three teenage children. She lost her husband 10 years ago. After overcoming family disputes and psychological hurdles and encouraged by her mother Mohini, Devi acquired her deceased husband Mahadev’s porter licence (No. 15) and took to the demanding task of hauling luggage of passengers at the Jaipur Railway Station.

Authorities initially told her there were no women porters and hence it would be difficult for her. But she persisted and eventually given the badge number, she said. It took her a while to get a grasp of the realities of her job and the challenge included designing her own uniform. Now, clad in a red kurta and white salwar, she sets out every day to work in multiple shifts, to make ends meet for her family.

Devi was among 112 women who were felicitated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, besides former beauty queens Aishwarya Rai and Nicole Faria, mountaineer Bachendri Pal, Anshu Jamsenpa, missile woman Tessy Thomas and private detective Rajani Pandit.

She was among a gathering of 90 women achievers from different backgrounds at Rashtrapati Bhavan on January 20, this year and President Ram Nath Kovind had said that he got “emotional” on hearing her story. “I weighed 30 kg and the passengers’ luggage was also 30 kg but it was nowhere to the burden of feeding three children,” Devi said in jest.

Slaughterhouse Diary II

Slaughterhouse Diary II: A School Reborn

Safia Rafeeq is a schoolteacher at Dhanaura Junior High School, Amroha. Safia is gladdened by the closure of an abattoir near the school. She hopes that the current academic session will mark the return of students who had dropped out due to health and hygiene issues caused by the unbearable stench.

The job of a government schoolteacher is considered a godsend by most women in Uttar Pradesh, but when I was posted at Dhanaura Junior High School in 2013, I would ask God what sin had I committed to get here. When I joined this school, it was impossible to stay inside the premises without a wet cloth wrapped over your nostrils because of the unmindful disposal of the carcasses and lack of attention to by the slaughterhouse.

The situation was even worse for the young (a junior high school in Uttar Pradesh enrolls students up to Class VIII only). They would have recurring respiratory problems and it was not uncommon for the students to complain of giddiness and nausea. Younger students would faint in the school all time; vomiting episodes were common too. We had no other option but to grant students leave generously, even if it meant poor attendance and keeping behind the curriculum.

Health came first. While I gradually adopted to the new environs, and continued to discover ways to beat the stench, I also kept trying to get myself transferred from this school. It didn’t take long for the dropout rates to go up. Those parents who could afford, transferred their children to other schools while several others decided to keep them away from Dhanaura.

How could I blame them? Even teachers had second thoughts of staying in the job! Few in the municipal administration could be bothered. By early last year, we were left with barely 50-60 students in the entire school; normally, one single class section in a government school has such strength. Things worsened when we noticed that even the groundwater in the area was contaminated. The hand-pump water inside the school became smelly and became reddish.

By summer, the school strength dwindled further. Desperate to set things straight, we approached NGOs for help who arranged potable water for students from other areas as well as face-masks to bear the foul air. But that’s all we could do; even the involvment of the gram pradhan (village head) did not make our voice heard where it could have helped. You can imagine the sense of relief when I came to know that the District Magistrate had ordered closure of the slaughterhouse.

I silently said my Namaz-e-Shukrana (prayers of thanks). It has been a year now, and the stench is gone. Things are still not completely normal as the groundwater is still a concern. But the student strength has shown improvement. The new session is in process and students are lining up for admission. The building has been whitewashed; there’s optimism in the air.

I cannot thank the Yogi government enough for acting this fast. As if by divine intervention, a doctor who runs a small clinic next to our school has assured parents of free medical aid to students in case of an emergency. The local legislator recently visited our school and assured the children that things will only go better from here onward. Insha Allah!

More From the Slaughterhouse Diary

Part I: ‘Yogi govt butchered my job’

Part III: Blossoms of Hope

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

Slaughterhouse Diary I

Slaughterhouse Diary I: Pushed to pulling

is a former employee of AQ Frozen Foods Pvt. Ltd, an abattoir in Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha district now closed down for various irregularities as per a state order. Alam is 50, and has to now earn his living as a rickshaw puller in Amroha town.

I can never forget the fateful morning of July 28 last year, when I went to the factory and found the gates sealed, along with a notice pasted on it from the DM (district magistrate) Sahib’s office. Colleagues told me that local Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had complained about some irregularities in the abattoir to get even with Bahujan Samaj Party leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui (now expelled from the party, Siddiqui was allegedly a part owner of the unit).

The Yogi government was quick to oblige. My fate too was sealed. When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Nearly 400 men lost their livelihood at one stroke of Yogi’s ‘knife’. I want to ask you who is the real butcher? Now, at 50, I am forced to pull a rickshaw in the town area, which hardly matches the income and comfort of the life in the company.

In my five years at the slaughterhouse, I had learnt the art of skinning the animals. I was taking home about Rs 5,000 every month. My friends told me I could earn double the amount if I proved my skills at abattoirs in bigger towns. My three sons also chipped in with odd jobs. We lived a decent life, including weekly off days to be with family. Now a day off from work means loss of precious earnings. Already my income is half of what I earned in the factory. I make Rs 100-150 a day.

Nobody pays generously to a rickshaw puller in a place like Amroha. The work is back-breaking labour of 12 hours, in harsh sun or bitter cold. What else can I do? I am illiterate and have no skills to find another job. Some of my colleagues who lost their jobs took to carpenter shops here but with too many of us on the road, jobs are few and far between. Some (of the ex-workers) have migrated to different states to work as farm labour, but they are young men with small families.

I have a large family (three sons and two daughters-in-law), it will be difficult for us to move. It is important that I stay here. Only good thing is that hard times have made my sons more responsible. They now take their odd jobs seriously and contribute towards the expenses of the family. My wife too, after her household work, uses a cot to lay out pan masala and tobacco sachets for sale.

The earning is not much, but every penny helps. I often run into my former boss at the factory, a kind-hearted man. He tells me to remain positive as the Allahabad (High) Court is seized of the matter and, Insha Allah, the factory will re-open soon. One thing has still not changed from the old times. After calling it a day, I visit the chai shop outside the factory to catch up with my old colleagues.

There, over warm tea in small plastic cups, we remember our heydays in the factory. Some have left the town, but there are still less than a dozen of us who still meet up in the evening and pray together for the re-opening of the abattoir.

More From the Slaughterhouse Diary
Part II: A School Reborn
Part III: Blossoms of Hope

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

Slaughterhouse Diary III

Slaughterhouse Diary III: Blossoms of Hope

, a 55-year-old mango-grower from Dhanaura village in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, saw his trees go barren because of effluents from a nearby abattoir. His annual income dwindled from a few lakhs of rupees to nothing. Today, with the closure of the slaughterhouse, he looks forward to revived fortunes.

It was almost a decade ago, in 2009, when we first saw this slaughterhouse coming up in our village. Behanji (Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati) was the chief minister then I remember, and many of us felt it would create jobs for the local youth and improve the roads linking our village to the highway. Our optimism was shortlived, for we soon realized the slaughterhouse had only brought misfortune.

It was not just my mango orchard but all the farmland falling within a radius of 3 km of the slaughterhouse was affected. Grain crops, fruits and vegetables: all suffered in quality and yield. The following season, my trees stopped flowering and bearing fruit. We sought help and were told that the chimney of the ‘butcherkhana’ spewed toxic and chemical-laden fumes.

This had a disastrous effect on the crops. We also ran from pillar to post, raising the alarm on this environmental disaster in our lives, but nobody cared. The owner of the slaughterhouse had deep pockets and high reach in the establishment. My income dried up. I left the orchard to the mercy of Allah and diverted my focus to our fields that were far away from the factory.

I managed to keep the kitchen going at home. With a change of guard in 2012 (when Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Government came to power), we saw hope as the Yadav family had roots in farming. We went to Lucknow several times but all we got were false assurances. Apparently, an ex-minister and SP leader was a partner in the factory.

The problems only grew from there, affecting not just the air but the groundwater as well. Our water pumps started pulling up dirty- foul-smelling water. It had become quite unbearable. In August 2014, we organised a huge panchayat in Dhanaura where hundreds of farmers gathered. Our protest continued for 95 days, and the authorities finally woke up and took note.

The factory was sealed by the administration. It didn’t last. The owners of the slaughterhouse approached the High Court and the closure notice was stayed. I have three children and during this time, all were studying in Meerut. My children would often advise me to sell all the land we had and move out. But I am a firm believer in Allah, and decided to wait.

A farmer will sell his land only when all options run out. The Yogi government was an answer to our prayers. In less than two months of his assuming power, district officials sealed this house of evil. The problems have not gone immediately, but did we didn’t expect them to.

In time, the land would heal itself, I knew. Then, one day, for the first time in the last eight years, I saw blossoms on some of my mango trees. I cried. I am thankful to Allah and confident now that my good fortune will return.

More From the Slaughterhouse Diary

Part I: ‘Yogi govt butchered my job’

Part II: A School Reborn

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

Life along the LoC Part II: Bunker Bravado

. Some operational details have been withheld to maintain anonymity.

There’s a constant struggle for positional supremacy along the LoC. The Pakistanis try their best to destroy or disable our frontline bunkers and sometimes even try to take possession of one. We repay them in kind, shell for shell, bullet for bullet. One such incident in a northern district of Kashmir near the close of the last millennium threatened to spiral out of control and cause a larger conflagration.

This is the story of how we did not let that happen. One of the strategic posts manned by a detachment of 10 soldiers led by a Junior Commissioned Officer was practically on the LoC. It had a splendid view of the Pakistani side and enabled suppressive fire, meaning a rain of bullets on attempted infiltration. One day, the Pakistanis cut loose with all they had on these bunkers—sub-machine guns, rockets, mortars.

Wireless communication with this team went cold as soon as the firing began. We feared the worst even as return fire commenced. Later, when the firing calmed down, we got a radio message from one of our jawans. Their team leader had very wisely decided to relocate his men from the bunker to a temporary position as soon as the overwhelming Pakistani fire assault began.

This jawan had snaked back to retrieve the radio set and inform us of their situation. There was no casualty on our side; the boys were okay. The bunkers were, however, being shot to pieces and the first thing to do was smash them back. The troops reorganised themselves and occupied firing positions behind boulders. We opened up with all we had, a blizzard of bullets and rockets on the opposite Pakistani positions.

After the fire assault, the enemy fire continued to cover the bunker and the wide slope leading up to it which hampered our supply of ration, water and basic amenities to men who were cut off from the rest of the location. A possible Pakistani seizure of this post would have lit up the LoC up and down, but it had been averted for the time being by our massive return fire.

This meant we had to shift focus on the next, and most important, mission:  sustaining this post administratively and operationally, for we could not hope to sustain fire from the Pakistanis on open positions without casualties. We had a plan, a crazy plan. To our surprise, senior officers agreed immediately. We decided to create an ‘overhead tunnel’ all the way to the ravaged post, repair it stronger and occupy it again.

The track would be covered overhead with the hard composite U-shaped sheets that we use to make bunkers and fortified with sandbags on its sides and top. These composite readymades can withstand small arms fire and shrapnel from artillery shells; with the sandbags they would be impregnable to what the Pakistanis were laying down on us non-stop.

Every day after last light, a team of junior commissioned officers and I would analyse the pattern of persistent Pakistani fire and continue to build the ‘overhead tunnel’, working till first light. This task took us four weeks to accomplish. In keeping with Indian Army traditions, we leaders didn’t ask our men to do anything we wouldn’t do. We would be first into the exposed section of the growing tunnel.

We filled sandbags and sewed them close as Pakistani bullets whistled and ricocheted all around us. Over four weeks, the tunnel grew from isolated sections across the field of Pakistani fire into a giant dotted line till it finally coalesced into one bulletproof route to the bunkers. The task was completed without any injury to men and damage to property.

During the entire duration of operation, jawans were tasked on rotational basis whereas same set of leaders involved in operation continued to lead without any rest, operating through the night and preparing the next day for the coming night operation. Finally, we were in! We had braved the fire the Pakistanis thought we couldn’t, and pulled off the impossible. All the bunkers were fortified afresh and occupied again. Another Pakistani mischief along the LoC had been thwarted.

More Action from the LoC

Part I: Fire and Fury

Part III: Taking Them Out

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

LoC Part I

Life along the LoC Part I: Fire and Fury

. Some operational details have been withheld to maintain anonymity.

The Line of Control runs through mostly mountainous terrain, following natural features where it can. All that is good on a map, but on the ground it’s a living line over and around slivers of land—a ridge, a spur, a valley, a stream bed—where sudden death is a constant possibility. Indian and Pakistani troops face each other from crude but hardened sandbagged bunkers; somewhere they have the advantage of a superior firing position, and in other places it is us.

On the whole, it balances out.   Among the kind of battles fought on the LoC is what we men in Olive Green call a fire assault. A fire assault means bringing great firepower to bear for a pre-ordained span of time on a particular target to attain dominance. This story is about one such operation. I commanded a company somewhere in the northern part of the LoC in the late 90s.

A company of any infantry battalion of the Indian Army usually has a hundred-odd fighting men divided into sub-units. The usual rank of a company commander is Major. My company was in charge of a handful of bunkers at an average elevation of 10,000 feet. Opposite, about 800 to 1000 yards away and slightly higher than us were Pakistani bunkers and an adjacent supply dump, a situation that allowed them to shoot down on us, including a devastating cone of fire from company-level weapons like medium machine guns.

This would not do, so we devised a plan to launch a fire assault on the Pakistani position which we believed held up to a sizable number of troops. To cause maximum damage a 75 mm heavy gun, an old faithful, was the weapon of choice. Using this gun for such operations was a unique concept; this had never done before at such a high altitude. For this requirement, this gun can be broken down into parts and re-assembled quickly.

The shell it fires is of large calibre and causes great damage—it can easily blow up an ordinary house with a few well-placed shots. Besides, we had High Explosive (HE) shells. The heavy gun was broken down by a couple of engineering technicians commandeered specifically for this operation. Special mules that the Indian army uses for exactly this kind of work were not used in order to keep things quiet and maintain surprise.

We got the non-combatants from our rear administrative location—cooks, laundrymen and assorted others—to carry the pieces of the gun during dark hours to a ridge at 13,000 feet that looked down on the Pakistani position. Big gun assembled, HE ammo stacked, we waited for dusk because that’s when there was a lull in the Pakistani fire and because it would be difficult for them to pinpoint us and retaliate.

We pointed the gun straight at the Pakistani bunkers rather than using the conventional mode of firing the shells in a lobbing arc, making it like a giant pistol rather than the light artillery piece it is meant to be. Fire! I ordered, and the shells began to smash into the Pakistani bunkers. We fired 30-odd big rounds into them in a matter of minutes.

That group of bunkers took a lot of punishment; a dead silence reigned through the night. The silence lasted two weeks; the Pakistanis didn’t fire at us. Our fire assault had worked: devastating firepower had cowed them down into a temporary peace.

More Action from the LoC

Part II: Bunker Bravado

Part III: Taking Them Out

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg

LoC Part III

Life along the LoC Part III: Taking Them Out

. Some operational details have been withheld to maintain anonymity.

Infiltration by terrorists is a fact of life on the LoC. Most of those who cross over to execute specific terror missions are hardened, trained and ready to die. This makes them deadly opponents indeed. Infantrymen along or near the LoC are often tasked to hunt down and eliminate such infiltrators. This is one such story, an operation I led almost two decades ago close to the LoC in the Valley, and was later honoured with a gallantry award for.

One of our informers told us of a group of four Lashkar-e-Toiba men holed up in a small village in our operational area. These men had moved from village to village deeper into Indian territory every night since infiltrating three or four days ago, we were reliably told. Despite what one hears on the TV, the Indian Army takes all the care it can to keep civilians out of such encounters.

We cordoned off the house and its adjacent dwelling units first with a small number of soldiers. I was leading and had with me a Quick Reaction Team, or QRT, lightly armed—assault rifles and grenades—and highly mobile troops. The entire village, some 300 people living in 70-odd houses were moved out of the area.

An outer wider cordon of the rest of the company was then put in place to intercept any terrorist if the first cordon was breached. By then the four fidayeen in the target house had realised they were surrounded and they began pouring fire at us from the windows. The way they controlled their fire indicated they were no amateurs.

Most of these Pakistan-trained terrorists don’t use flash eliminators on their AKs, and their firing has a distinctly different sound that every soldier who has experienced their fire can tell. First, we ‘softened’ them up with a barrage of small arms fire and shoulder-fired rockets. Their firing continued, though it had become markedly sporadic, indicating one or more of the terrorists had been wounded or, hopefully, got ‘taken out’.

We seized the opportunity during one such lull in the firing from the house and ran quickly the few open yards to one of the windows that appeared to be the source of much fire. Time seemed to have slowed as I along with my buddy reached the window unscathed even though I could hear firing continue. Without a moment’s delay I broke the window pane with the butt of my rifle and lobbed in a couple of grenades.

Seconds later the house shook with twin explosions. Both of us stood up and our eyes focussed on two moving shapes in the gloomy interior of the house. Our reaction was immediate: We blazed away at the terrorists, spraying them both with long bursts from our AK-47s, whose rounds cause much damage to the human body from short ranges because they tend to splinter on impact.

Before remaining terrorists could react, I reorganised my group and charged into the house. My team members were very quick; our hearts were calm and our feet pounding on the floor, and both fidayeens were flushed out and eliminated with crisp action.

Killing these terrorists saved an incalculable number of lives as they were planning to carry out multiple attacks on security forces which we discovered from documents recovered in the house. The mission was completed in 12 hours without any casualty in my troops or the civilian population.

More Action from the LoC

Part I: Fire and Fury

Part II: Bunker Bravado

-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg