A young soldier recently stationed in Indian-administered Kashmir describes the feelings of soldiers braving the cold at high altitudes as they wait to intercept militants.
We have to go out, again. It is not easy going out night after night but I cannot really help feeling the debilitating effects of the cold.
Our group comprises two different sets of people.
One has the newcomers in it, the load carriers, who are being introduced to this kind of terrain and this way of operation.
They are young boys from 18 to 22 years old.
Then there are the old timers, men who have served their time here and are familiar with the surroundings and must be good since they have survived this long.
I am a newcomer, not to this kind of operation but to this kind of terrain.
I slowly become accustomed to the cold, devise methods to ward off sleep, and have also begun to decipher shadows in the night, separating the real from the imaginary.
It is quite tedious going out in the cold waiting, hoping for him to come out of nowhere... So that we can kill him.
Every experienced soldier has a young one with him as his buddy. I also have a young boy with me. He is just a few months older than 19, comes from a family of farmers somewhere in central India, and joined the army to provide them with a livelihood.
I teach him the tricks of the trade: what to carry, what not to carry, how to wear his shoes so that they do not cut him, how many layers of clothing to wear so that we can remain warm and still not hindered when we want to move fast, what position to wait in so that we do not tire very fast, how to aim and fire so that the enemy may not escape... And many other seemingly trivial details.
But when you are in a life and death situation, attention to detail can save lives - it could be the difference between this young man retuning home to see his family again or him returning home dead.
I had always thought that I would enjoy teaching - but that was when I was thinking about teaching English literature.
Here I am, teaching a young boy barely out of his teens how to kill - without fear, without pity, without remorse - just the way I was taught.
'Art of killing'
After sometime the higher cause becomes obscure. After sometime you just start accepting the fact that every night we go out like primitive hunters hoping for a kill - it becomes a very natural thing to do, part of the routine.
When we do kill somebody, we rejoice and dance and hug each other and pose with the dead body as if it was some trophy to be shown off. But we stop being human.
Soldiers have to be ever-watchful for militant attacks
As I sit there in the night, waiting... I think to myself 'how did it all come to this?'
From a young boy who wanted to teach English literature, how did I end up becoming an instructor in the art of killing?
Since when did death stop affecting me, when did I become so numb? I do not know... No answer comes.
What I do know is that somewhere along the line I made decisions in life which have resulted me being here... In the dark, in the jungle, in the cold... Waiting...
The soldier wished to remain anonymous.
The following are a selection of your comments
The piece is written very well and should be seen as a plight of any soldier (WW I, WW II, Vietnam, Korea, Kuwait, Iran-Iraq war or Kashmir), although I am surprised at some of the comments. By some he is not judged as a person doing his job but being surprised by his own transformation, some have chosen to politicise his plight to indirectly convey what they think is right in Kashmir.
Prashant K. Sharma, Groningen, The Netherlands
As and Indian, I am quiet proud of this soldier. These are men who are risking their very lives for the sake of the nation's unity and integrity.
It is because of men like him that all of us Indians can live freely. However, i feel that the great contributions of the Indian soldier are often repaid with ingratitude by the Indian nation.
Mathew, Dubai, UAE
As a Kashmiri I found little sympathy for the soldier's heart rendering account of his transformation. what we need is these soldiers need to be brought to book in an internationally supervised tribunal. they have robbed the people of Kashmiri of their liberty, livelyhood and dignity - all the essential ingredients making up human rights. To brag about his transformation into brutal killer is no execuse for a lack of humanity. the Indian soldiers know very well they can not control the people through the barrel of the gun. They will have to leave the people of Kashmir to run their own affairs. that also goes for Pkistani troops.
Zahid Malik, Manchester, England
I am proud of the Indian army and its contributions. It is one of the finest armies of the world full of ancient customs, traditions and a glorious history. I admire the work of these soldiers and their sacrifice to our great nation without which we would have many more Kargils. With unfaithful and unreliable neighbors like Pakistan we remain fully reliant on our wonderful Indian army to protect our borders and teach our neighbors a lesson.
Amit, New Delhi, India
If it wasn't for these brave soliders, you would have probably seen Indian Kashmir 'Talibanised'. Ruled by teror as in Waristan and along the border of Afganistan / Pakistan.
ashwin, London, England
The officer is dwelling into the pathos of soldiering.Some readers don't seem to understand what he is expressing its not about Kashmir or Timbucktoo.Kashmir just happens to be the canvas.
A well written piece.
Romesh, New York USA
Killing someone boecomes more painful when you are aware that you are on the wrong side. American killing citizens of Iraq must feel the same as Indians killing Kashmiris asking for nothing but their well deserved freedom. I wonder if Indian soldiers are aware that their, now dead leaders had promised Kashmiris, the right of self determination?
Shah Nawaz, Seattle
This soldier is big asset for the country and needs to be saluted for that.
He is doing what his duty calls him to and he should do it with pride and motivation. Yes during the course of life when we face hardships we all question our decisions,even I have,being a doctor. The training in medical was tough enough to make me rethink the decision many times and the logics usually dont work during the hardship times.All you need to do is regroup yourself,believe in you and your decision and continue to march on. Have I succeded in taking away misery and disease out of the face of earth. No. but I still m continuing with my job.You were trained for that and the country is proud of you.
Saurabh Mathur, LA,USA
First of all hats off to any soldier servering in any part of the world who is doing his/her job with all heart.
Now about some arguments made here about killing "civilians" "innocent kashmiri citizens" .. well if you read the article again u will notice that this "shooting" takes place at night, where its hard to differenciate between a shadow and a real thing. and its an easy guess to know who comes up at such times .. people who have things to hide,people who are afraid to come out in day light because they know in their mind that they are doing wrong thing .. and people like this with guns are called as "militants/terrorist" not "civilians/inocent citizens" .
And if a Soldier is killing any such "ghost who comes out only in dark" then he should be 100% proud of it.. without being too melo about it.
Again with all due respect i think the soldier is slightly soft hearted, and must consider his decision of joining the army again. INDIA is surely not like few of its neighboring countries where people find it hard to get a job (atleast educated people who dream of becoming english teachers etc) Again hats off to each and every soldier in any part of the world who are Willingly , knowingly serving in such attrocius conditions day in day out just to make sure people like us can sit here and keep on arguing ...
Archit joglekar, Pune, India
Please tell these soldiers that they are not being utilised for a noble cause. Instead they are killing innocent Kashmiris who were not part of their (Indian soldiers) country and don't bear anything in common with them, whether it be in culture or taste. I realise that most Indian soldiers are only doing the job because they are poor and are not capable of getting other jobs so easily. I am from Kashmir and I can tell you that 99% of Indian soldiers don't know why are they fighting in Kashmir and what is the history behind the present conflict.
Please do not forget he is a soldier like any other in Afghanistan, Iran or anywhere else. He could be British, American or any other nationality, just doing his job for his country. It is unfair to label him as an "Instructor in the art of killing".
Arun Sharma, Gurgaon India
This is why we, the free ones should always be grateful to these young men who have given up their aims in life to give us a choice in life.
Tapan Bose, Sydney, Australia
I was a soldier in the Indian Army for 15 years. I felt sad when I get orders from my commanders to fire against citizens of the same nation, who had the right to live peacefully. Does it make any sense to kill innocent people on the orders of politicians based hundreds of miles away? Let the Kashmiris decide their own future. If they want "freedom", they should be given the chance to select their own leaders. Neither India nor Pakistani backed militants have the right to kill unarmed civilians in the name of terror.
Shamsuddin , Los Angeles, US
I enjoyed reading what the writer had to say, but somewhat surprised to find it in print on the BBC website. I would place the writer as a young rifle company commander on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir - perhaps at graduate entry, since at some time he perhaps had an option to be a teacher, but chose to join the Indian army as volunteer. "War is hell" as many soldiers in good armies say with perverse pride - whether the British in Helmand, the Americans in Anbar, or the Indian in Kashmir. Whatever the young writer may think about himself, from my reading he remains a good soldier as well as a decent human being. Good luck young man, and - Shabash !
Shankar Roy Chowdhury, Calcutta India
Moving piece. Extremely well written. I feel for our army... Patriotism certainly doesn't mean much when all you do is kill...
Parveen Sagar, Wellington, NZ
Very well written article. Simple in words but striking. It must be the feeling of every soldier in the war zone. Hope one day there would not be any war and people can live and understand each other. My best wishes to the writer and his student. May "luck" be with you.
Prasanth Chinta, Chicago, USA
I am completely against war, but walls we have built, and if not secured chaos and barbarism will triumph. Somebody has to do the messy job, but peace be with you, because a nation of one billion cherishes its freedom. As an Indian I salute thee in reverence.
Being a Pakistani, I am definitely against the Indian occupation of Kashmir. The indiscriminate killings and overall political condition of Kashmir has created this sentimental condition among many normally level-headed people - probably on both sides of the Line of Control.
Javed Hussain, Islamabad, Pakistan
Congratulations in becoming a cold blooded murderer instead of an English instructor - a very big promotion indeed.
MA Waheed, Lahore, Pakistan
Wow. What a truly powerful piece of writing. This essay does a really great job of shedding light upon the superhuman spirit of common Indian soldiers who operate unwaveringly on the torrid front lines under horrendous conditions. I don't think the citizens or the government of India really appreciate this.
AM, New York, USA
This kind of an observation can only come from an Indian soldier. I suppose we Indians are quite naturally "non violent". But hey, what choice does he have.. either kill or be killed. Given those two alternatives, I suppose I will choose the former.
Ravi, Bhilai, Chhattisgarh.
It is interesting how war turns men into beasts. These soldiers all went into Kashmir hoping to either just serve their country or get a new life in the army, but instead end up becoming different people all just to survive. I really appreciate this soldier's honesty about his feelings about fighting Kashmiri insurgents. It is also pacifying though in that these tough soldiers are ordinary people who just want a life or job, like the soldier in this article who wanted to teach English literature. There is still hope however that once this insurgency ends, Kashmir can once again become a paradise.
Harsha Eswarappa, Acton, USA
Very good and touchy article. Can we have more of this or something of a similar nature?
Pankaj K Sahay, Delhi, India
I have sympathies with this soldier in the Indian army and, in fact, with all such "instructors of death", be they in Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan or any other war torn region of the globe. I also have a great sympathy for the families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives just to satisfy the egos of their political masters.
Jahangir Baig, Lahore, Pakistan.
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