Tiger hill looms large in the distance. Should we admire its beauty or allow ourselves to recall its war-ravaged landscape, shelled from both sides of the border 19 years ago? I was on the way to Kargil where the great proxy war took place during the summers of 1999 and later 2009. But first we reach Dras and settle down to a meal of mutton and rice sold at a roadside hutment by a couple in their 70's. They talk of the ‘great war’, remembering how even after a ceasefire was declared, officially bringing the conflict to an end in July ’99, sporadic shelling continued. They used to go to sleep every night thinking they would wake up dead. Today, things appear to be different. There is a phone booth but mobile phone is more operational. And herds of bikers zip by on their way to Leh. Predominantly a Shi’ite town, there are posters of Ayatollah Khomeini displayed prominently at the crossings. And there are whispers about a local trust “importing the culture of Iran” to the place, where the Iranian cleric’s maternal family apparently has its roots. As we ride along the Singha river, it is strange to see Pakistanis on the other side of the Line of Control (LOC), even as you’re greeted by Indian army signs that warn ‘the enemy is watching you’. Long disputed, the LOC keeps the army on its toes, so much so that a common form of greeting among them is ‘Tagra Raho’ or stay strong, stay alert. At one of the posts, we see Pakistani regulars of the Northern Light Infantry and men from Gilgit Scouts waving at us. The same road and the Zoji-La had Stuart tanks moved during the 1965 skirmishes with Pakistan. The war is one of the most recent examples of high altitude warfare which posed significant logistics issues including ferrying the huge Bofors field guns and other mountain artillery for both the combating sides. It is one of the very few instances of direct, man to man warfare between the nuclear capability states India had conducted its first successful test in Pokhran first in 1974; Pakistan, which had been developing its nuclear capabilities in secret since around the same time, conducted its first known tests in 1998 at Chagai hills in Baloch, just two weeks after the second Nuclear bomb test by India again at Pokhran in Western Rajasthan. It is also one of the few instances of direct, conventional warfare between two democracies, as Pakistan had a democratically elected government at the time. Later, an Indian Army captain tells us how at border meetings fatigues from both countries share food and stories. But situations often change overnight as bullets often puncture the fragile peace of the region. For the many villagers who live along the LOC, blasted shells and the smell of gunpowder have become part and parcel of everyday life, especially after the turn of the millennium. The images show how the beautiful landscape been fought with heavy artillery and mountain guns just to remind that the ecology is pushed with warm fires hitting the snow clad peaks and bringing damage to our future. Never the less many civilians and army men dying on both sides when the ravaged war takes place ignoring the peace.
A Bakhrawal child holds an infant along the Meena bagh road in Kargil district. The life along the LoC is between the flying bullets and shells. The Bakhrawal tribe helped Indian intelligence agencies and the Indian army with vital inputs about intruders on the remote high hills.
A Bofors battlegun doing its regular excercise facing Pakistan.
A civilian vehicle moving along the Kargil mountain road.The beauty of the landscape is immense but with boambarding and ammunation usage the ecology is getting affected.
An Indian army officer watches a civil ammenities truck with Tiger Hill on the background.
An Indian army personnel practicing at the shooting range in Dras as they have to be equipped and alert 24x7.
An Indian army personnel practicing target at the shooting range in Dras as they have to be equipped and alert 24x7
Bofors battlegun in station.
Dry arid road at the cold desert of Kargil Ladakh sector
Indian army men doing calculations while doing the Bofors gun exercise in firing the heavy shell at the Kargil sector.
Indian army men patrolling Zoji-La due to an important strategic connect which if attacked can be an havoc to Indian security both by Pakistan and China.
Strategic point towards PoK.
Strategic points towards Gilgit.
The beauty of the landscape is immense but with bombarding and ammunition usage the ecology is getting affected.
The hills and landscape where high altitude battles take place between India and Pakistan.
The landscape in Dras.
The Line of Control.
The mountain road which carries both civil and military goods with Pakistan keeping an eye in certain points.
The shooting range in Dras.
The Singa river divides India and Pakistan along the disputed LoC.
This lady and her husband in eighties survived many shells during and after Kargil war.
This phone booth helped lots of Indian army men as mobile phone availability wasn't there during the 1999 Kargil war.
Tracks crossing Zoji-La.
Valley and mountain road from here moved mammoth sized artillery in 1999 and Stuart Tanks in 1965. Still it is the important army road for border manning.
Wall built to avoid Pakistan army to see the vehicular movement in the Tololing sector.
With PoK or what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir Indian army looks at the Baltistan sector.
With PoK or what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir Indian army officer looks at the Baltistan sector.