March 2005 News

Drive Across LoC Via Dangerous Terrain

18 March 2005
The Indian Express

Uri: Now that this emotive link connecting the two Kashmirs is finally being revived, the onus of a safe journey will rest on the man who drives the first bus. He would need to keep in mind that this peace road is still strewn with dangerous mines on either side of its banks in the final 2.6-km stretch. Though the Indian Army has demined the stretch from the Weak bridge to the Wood bridge - the latter under construction - sources said the left and right banks are still laden with the deadly anti-personnel mines. The army, in fact, is not allowing anyone to lurk beyond the cleared path. 'Though we have demined the stretch on the road, mines are still embedded in the mountain beds and the Jhelum embankment. We are constructing a drain on the side of the mountain and a concrete demarcator so that vehicles don't skid,' said Lt Col Maninder Singh of Army's Engineering unit. He, however, assured that the stretch of the road was completely safe as they had taken all the requisite measures during the demining process. But sources said the driver of the bus would have to focus on the road and avoid driving negligently. 'The vehicle should not skid too much,' said an army officer. The 170-km road between the capitals of the two Kashmirs, especially the five-km Uri-Chakoti stretch, is precisely where the two militaries had laid countless landmines during the 1965 and 1971 wars, and even later. Army sources said hundreds of anti-personnel mines are still lying there and will be disposed of later. 'We are fighting against time to remove the mines where we feel there is a danger,' said an armyman. Although the demining on the 2.6 km muddy stretch started after ceasefire, the process on the last 300 metres began from February 28. The army first used dozers, then the expertise of sappers and lately heavy rollers to ensure the ground beneath the road was safe. 'There used to be explosions all around but they sounded like Diwali crackers,' said a soldier near the Kaman post. The army mostly employed manual demining methods, using metal detectors and a prodder plus an excavator to uncover the mines although mechanical mine clearance was also employed at places. Col R K Sen, spokesman of the army here, said demining is a time- consuming process. 'It requires lot of proddings. But the road is okay,' he said. Meanwhile, Lt General Hari Prasad, commander, Northern Command and Lt Gen Nirbay Sharma, commander of the 15 Corps, today inspected the work on the road. They assured that the road will be ready well before April 7, and that Army will provide all possible assistance to the government.

 

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