Friday, January 07, 2005

War in the Wilderness - III

25 June - M plus 2

A peaceful albeit very chilly night. I wake up to a hot cuppa tea served by the trusty Karan. 30 minutes to clean self and weapons and I'm ready to move. So are Bravo and his merry men. We take off.

A short climb till the ridge line. 16530 feet. And it's beautiful. Flat, bare, a lovely view to our West of the Kashmir Valley and to the east, my first look at the Zulu Valley. Narrow, green and far away.

And the most fascinating thing. Right next to us on the ridge line, is a little lake. Ok! Ok! Not a lake. A pond.

Time schedule be damned. I strip and jump in as do a few more courageous and crazy souls. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! Its miserably cold but tremendously refreshing and when I emerge I feel like an abs new man. Feel ready to walk a 100 miles and take on a 1000 militants.

0800. A short halt as the scouts move up to try find a route. I switch on my radio to see if anyone's talking.

"Charlie for Khalid, Charlie for Khalid, Charlie for Khalid."

Damn!!! What ever happened to radio silence?

And before I can respond, "Akbar for Khalid, Akbar for Khalid." Thats the General.

What the hell is happening? I'm totally zapped.

"Charlie for Akbar, Khalid not responding. Request advise further action."

Further action? Advice? Whats the General involved for now? Has Charlie gone nuts?

I decide to take the plunge, " Khalid for Charlie, go ahead."

"Charlie for Khalid. We've been attacked."

Attacked? What the f*** is he talking about?

"Charlie for Khalid, we've been attacked, we've been attacked." The young Majors voice is sounding frantic.

"Khalid for Charlie, cool down. Are you in contact?"

"Charlie for Khalid, no, I say again, no. We were fired upon last night. We had halted for the night and they fired PIKAs. I have 8 boys wounded."

Shit !!!!!

Akbar pipes in again. "Akbar for Charlie. Stay put. Choppers coming in for cas evac. Give your position and locate and prepare nearest possible landing site ASAP."

Akbar continues, " Charlie , wait out to you. Akbar for Khalid."

"Khalid for Akbar, go ahead."

"Akbar for Khalid. Mission aborted. Head back."


What IS happening? Is this some f****** nightmare?

"Akbar for Khalid, did you copy? I say again, mission aborted. Head back. Charlie has casualties and Alpha is behind schedule. He's stuck in the hills."

I think awhile. I haven't walked this far for nothing.

"Akbar for Khalid, did you receive?"

F*** you General, Sir !!

"Khalid for Akbar, nothing heard, nothing heard."

"Akbar for Khalid, come in dammit!"

The General goes on and on and finally stops when I switch off my radio set. Everyone be damned.

I'm worried about Charlie and his casualties, but am confident that the General will organise the needful.

But what do I do now? Alphas missing somewhere in the hills far to the north. No news of Delta, but even if he is on schedule, he'll only be on the southern end of the Zulu Valley. Can I go in with just Bravo? What if there really are over a 100 militants?

I yell out to Bravo, " Lets get a move on buddy."

Thats it. Jo hoga dekha jaega. Let not some m***** f******* militants say they scared us away.

We head downwards. Walking fast. Downhill is tough on the knees, but I no longer care. Want to get to Zulu and want to kill those jerks there. Period.

Around 1300 hours, we're back in the tree line and shortly thereafter, come acros a Gujjar settlement. We halt short and the scouts check it out. No danger. We move up.

There are about 2-3 Gujjar families. 18-20 people, all sexes, shapes, sizes and ages. 200-300 sheep, all sexes, shapes, sizes and ages. Seem harmless, both these categories.

But I'm worried. I don't want them slipping down to the village and giving advance warning of our arrival.

"Give us that boy" I tell one of the adults, pointing to a young lad, perhaps in his late teens.

He looks very worried as he asks me why. The lads his son.

"I want a guide down to the village. I'll pay him for that." I inform him.

"Oh ! Okay," is his postive, though a wee bit reluctant, response.

"Fine, we're off. Your son will be back by evening, unless..."

"Unless what?" he asks.

"Unless one of you decides to cut across to the village and talk about us. If that happens, he'll come back without a head."

"Nahi Maalik. We wil not talk about you to anyone."


We move on.

Time passes by and just short of last light, I find myself in a little copse on the lower slopes of the feature. Just below us, 2 klix at best, is A Village.

The guys spread out and I tell Bravo to get them to relax. But to be watchful. He deploys sentries and everyone chills.

I can see the village clearly from where Bravo and I are lying under a tree. Theres still some ambient light. No movement can be seen though. Not a soul. If I couldn't see the lights in the houses, I'd say the village was deserted.

"What do we do now, Sir?" asks Bravo.

"What else, Bravo? Lets go explore the village" I tell him.

"The village? But that will compromise surprise Sir, I mean, so many guys and all."

"Relax buddy. Just you and me." I give him a wicked smile.

"Wow. Thats fun. Lets go" is his brave reply.

I whistle up Karan and tell him my intentions. He looks happier than he's done in the past 3 days.

We down some tea and shakarparas and after a quick nap, at around 2330 hours, Bravo, Karan and I enter Village A.



At 11:17 AM, April 18, 2005, Anonymous bits said...

This wait & watch situation must be very frustrating. Karan & Khalid seem so much at sync with each other. In such situations its always nice & comfortable to have another person one can rely on & depend upon totally, after all one small mistake can result in a loss of life or failure of the whole assignment!

At 10:36 AM, April 19, 2005, Blogger Counter Insurgent said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:41 AM, April 19, 2005, Blogger Counter Insurgent said...

Bitsy : Yes ! it is v frustrating at times, but can't be helped. N Karan n I operated together as a 'buddy' pair for over 6 years, twice in Kashmir n in Sri Lanka. He was my shadow n vice versa. n we in d SF (Special Forces) always operate in buddy pairs, with your life in the others it's based on abs mutual trust n dependability :+)



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