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June 3, 1999
Tale of a journey in war zone
Azad Ahmad will not undertake that journey again for all the money in the world. Posted at Drass, this veterinary surgeon had the misfortune to be there when India started its air strikes against the intruders Wednesday. He travelled to Kargil 60 km away on an official assignment through the Srinagar-Leh road which came under Pakistani shelling at many places, arriving here badly shaken. Dr Azad spoke to Rediff's Chindu Sreedharan in Kargil the next morning:
I started out early morning from Drass. I had a horse with me, which I wanted to take to a safer place. But as the truck driver was scared to come to Drass, it was decided that we would meet at Gandiyal, 2 km away. My horse was fidgety because of all the firing and I could not ride him. The previous night a shell had landed near my room. At around 6.20 am we started walking.
A little later, the shelling started. I could see the smoke rising on the nearby hills and along the road. It was very close and very scary. Army personnel were running for shelter. I couldn't even do that because of my horse. So I walked, gritting my teeth and praying. Fortunately it was a short journey and I made it to Gandiyal safely.
It was from here that I witnessed the Indian air strikes. There were two helicopters. I don't think they were gun-ships, they looked smaller. They were over the ridges near Bhimbet, a village about 7 km by road from Drass towards Kargil. It was 6.55 am. I am sure about the time because I remember looking at my wristwatch.
The choppers were approaching the ridge. They moved over it, and then there was a barrage of bombs. From where I stood they looked like parachutes. But they were bombs all right. I saw the fire, sound and the smoke. Behind the ridge I have been told is the Line of Control.
We started off for Kargil at around 11.30 am and stopped at Chaukiyal, Jasgund and a few other places. From Kharbo till Kaksar, where the road is greatly vulnerable to Pakistani firing because there are no hills to protect it, it was very bad. Though the shelling was not intense, the fire-balls were landing very close to the road. A one place, I saw one landing right on the road.
Being a Kashmiri I have seen a lot of violence in my 30 years of life. But I was never more scared than I was on Wednesday. It was a relief to drive into Kargil. It was calmer here than it was on the way.
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