When Pak troops fired at Indian scribes inside trench

Post-Kargil, scribes walked through minefield in pitch darkness 

Nineteen summers back, Kashmir's Uri sector was still reeling from the Kargil war.  PTI file photo

Nineteen summers back, Kashmir's Uri sector was still reeling from the Kargil war. As vast swathes of territory were being pounded by the artillery, this correspondent bucked inside a trench to avoid Pak fire, walked through a minefield in pitch darkness and found safety inside a bunker.  

The re-emerging war clouds has brought back memories of those dramatic hours, when shelling was an everyday affair, the gun trails lighting up the evening sky. Part of a Defence Correspondents Course, that border visit brought home the extreme challenges faced by the jawans, every hour.

Trekking up to a height of 8,000ft, a 10-member media team arrived at the forward post. Dusk had fallen, and the Line of Control lay barely a few metres away. Overlooking the Indian post, across the LoC, Pakistani troops sensed something unusual. 

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Led by a Major, the team ventured into a trench going round the mountain top. Through an opening, the team peeped out, spotting the enemy troops manning their forward post barely 100m away. Down blow, between the two mountain ranges lay the LoC. 

But in a split second, the scene changed. The Pak troops started fire, catching the media team shell-shocked. The Major directed everyone, this correspondent included, to duck. Caught inside the trench, hearts beating fast, the bullets came thick and fast. “Bend, duck your heads, quick,” the Major whispered hard. 

The mediamen had absolutely no choice. They had to duck, crawl and move fast. “Don't panic, but move, move,” the Major's directive was firm but frantic. This correspondent could hear the bullets hit the trench's metal roof. 

Two gruelling hours later, the team finally returned to the safe end of the post. But ahead lay a dangerous trip to a bunker, where the journalists would stay for the night. 

Blind trek 

In pitch darkness, the team had to trek through a minefield for three hours to reach the bunker. A Subedar Major, well aware of the mine locations, led the team. Holding one end of a rope, he asked the mediamen to hold them in a line with 10ft apart. 

His instructions were clear: “No lights or torches, no talking. But I will give you instructions in whispers. Relay them till the end.” Nodding, the scribes started to walk in total darkness. The rope seemed their only company. 

But the steps on an uneven terrain was tricky. A scribe fell, alerting the Major. The Major's remark sounded like a warning, but laced with sarcasm: “Don't fall to the left or to the right. If you really want to fall, fall in line!” 

Sweating profusely in that chilly night, the scribes slowed their steps. Then came the Major's message: “Hurry, not so slow. We are in the direct line of Pakistani fire.” The scribes thanked their stars. For, night vision goggles were yet to get fashionable!  

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