Monday, 8 April 2013

The Landscape

December 30, 1999
09:30 hrs

Some where in the snow clad villages, in close proximity to L.O.C.

Their eyes scanned the landscape below them. There was only one path which they could take. The snow clad mountains bordered the arena. The whoosh of the winds sent shivers down the spines of the villagers residing near the Line Of Control (LOC). The fields showed no signs of green, but just a thick blanket of snow jacketing the entire land. The orange ball of fire, known to be ruthless during the summers, couldn't unleash its terror today, when it was needed the most.

“Which way do we go comrades,” inquired an eager Raj Singh, or to be more precise Lieutenant Raj Singh. The four men dressed in brown apparels were none other than the Prisoners Of War (POW) of the recently concluded ‘Kargil War’, in which the Indian Armed Forces outplayed their Pakistani Counterparts, but nonetheless, at an expense of as close to 525 brave hearts, who proudly laid down their lives for their motherland. The four men; Lt. Raj Singh, Capt. Jay Rathod, Lt. Samar Singh and Lt. Ajay Singh, all in their thirties, were captured by the Pakistani Patrol Party in mid June near the Batalik Sector of India.
Since then, the four were the so called ‘guests’ of Pakistan and received the ‘Pakistani hospitality’ to the fullest. This was evident from their physical features. Blade-marks on the chest were just one of those permanent scars which the four had implicated upon their bodies. Cigarette burns on the hands and chests had become a daily routine for the four ill-fated men. After six months of humiliation, torture and atrocities, the four finally decided that they had enough and it was time for them to either escape or lick cyanide. Being gallant war heroes, they chose the former.

Their hopes from the government to bail them out from such mess too had been put to rest. Six months had passed on since their capture but their government had completely disowned them, labeling them as ‘Officially Unofficial’.

The four had successfully bribed an official within the confinement, to give them access to the nearby village through a Pakistani Convoy and four sets of the Pakistani Army uniforms. They had planned their heist flawlessly as, post mid night the security was comparatively lax. At 01:30 hrs on December 30, the men clad as Pakistani Soldiers, sneaked through the back gate of the confinement and without much hustle-bustle started their convoy. The patrol guards of the confinement didn't take long to figure out the mystery of the missing men.

Within a couple of hours, the nearest motorway was occupied by armed vehicles and check-posts. The four men had no choice but to desert their convoy and take refuge in the surrounding snow-clad mountains. Singing motivational songs and reciting soul-inspiring anecdotes whilst their escape was the only thing which boosted the motivational levels of the four men. At 09:30 hrs, they were still holed up in Pakistan, though the Indian Borders weren't too far.  “Five to ten miles,” as per Capt. Jay Rathod’s calculation.

This would take them another one-eighty to two hundred minutes. “My feet have worn out”, grumbled Lt. Samar Singh. “Just endure through this pain for now, when you have a glimpse of your family, all of it will vanish,” came the reply from Lt. Ajay Singh. Reaching their motherland was the sole objective of the four men, who didn't even mind dying, once after reaching their nation. But would they reach??

The four stopped by a stream to relax but their process of relaxation was distressed by a .45 caliber bullet piercing through Lt. Ajay Singh’s chest, splitting it wide open, with blood gushing through; like water flowing out of a pipe. He died within a few seconds. Suddenly treacherous but familiar sounds were audible to the three remaining men. The Pakistani patrol team was chasing them down and it was their bullet which had slaughtered Lt. Ajay Singh. The three remaining men galloped as quickly as they could. They didn't cease until they found an abandoned bike lying in the snow clad region.

 Fortunately though, the engine ignited its powers and it began, and with all difficulty the three managed to ride it and get past the snowy region. While on the pillion seat, Lt. Samar could feel a liquidish mania in contact with his right arm. It was blood flowing through Capt. Jay Rathod’s chest. Samar’s eyes popped out on realising that his senior was no more. Capt. Jay Rathod had breathed his last on the bike and one off the bullets being blindly fired had killed him.

Three green vans belonging to the Pakistani Border Guards were following the bike, while the men inside were recklessly shelling out bullets. The bike took a left turn and disappeared into a half- a- mile long cave which had another end through which sunshine illuminated it. The engines of the three vans ceased, while the officials within them were bowled over by the sudden ‘disappearance’ of a bike.

Lt. Raj Singh carefully plunged the bike out of the cave and advanced further. Samar Singh in the meanwhile unbuckled his haversack bag and glared through the binoculars. The nearest Indian check post was visible, situated a mile away. This was the mile which separated the two men from their motherland. On hearing the sound of a bike escalating, the Indian Guards became vigilant and had a look through their binoculars. They could see two men dressed in Pakistani Army apparels rushing towards their check post.

The guards at the check post knew that there was a high probability that the two men on the bike could be suicide-bombers trying to disrupt the activities of the Indian Border Guards. The men on the bike were too close now and it was time to quickly react.
Following the orders of a senior Captain in the check post, two guards fired an RPG rocket towards the two men, whom they perceived as ‘suicide-bombers’. 
The bike was popped out in the air like the cap of a champagne bottle and settled down in the snow, with fumes visible.

The two men on the bike lay dead.    

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