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Meet the mute sentinels of Kashmir

By Sumir Kaul
October 13, 2016 14:31 IST
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Not only army personnel but Indian Army's canine 'soldiers' perform their duties in counter-insurgency operations.

IMAGE: Sandy, a rottweiler on the prowl of militants with his uniformed colleague. Photographs: PTI Photo

After a long, hard day at work in counter-insurgency operations, 'Tractor' and 'Sam' trudge into their respective camps located in a remote village of south Kashmir and get a hero's welcome each day.

Some of the army personnel pat them while others throw a ball and some offer biscuits for a great job done by the two canines during an anti-militancy operation by detecting an improvised explosive device or alerting troops about suspicious movements.

'Tractor', a Rottweiler, and 'Sam', a German Shepherd, have been deployed with an unit of army's Rashtriya Rifles, which keeps a vigil on sensitive areas of south Kashmir covering Kokernag, Achabal, Magam forests and Pahalgam.

Both had the distinction of being part of the operation in which Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani and two others were killed on July 8.

"After the successful operation, these two colleagues of mine also had a sense of relief along with other team mates," says an army major referring to 'Tractor' and 'Sam'.

They are fondly taken care of and engaged by soldiers who devote a considerable free time of theirs to give company to their "colleagues" who keep a watch when they sleep in their make-shift tents or accommodation or walk down the roads which could be mined by terrorists.

Sniffing out an IED planted on a road or chasing a runaway terrorist or alerting a possible intrusion are some of the duties that these dogs have been performing with aplomb.

"When nation sleeps, people know that we are awake and when we take a nap, we know that these (dogs) are awake," says a army officer as he fondly pats 'Sam' and 'Tractor' who had detected an IED on Dailgam-Achabal road.The canines besides performing the duties in counter-insurgency operations also act as "stress-busters" for the troops who like to play with us, says a handler.

IMAGE: A sniffer dog checks a car during an operation. 

"The dogs have their own mechanism of studying and observing us and adjusting themselves to our mood," said another army major.

"During chalo calls when crowd was building, 'Trigger' was very effective with his presence. He activates himself to attack any violent demonstrators," the officer said and added with a smile, "his nervous system gets activated the moment he hears word Azadi."

Besides these canines, there is a "Jojo", a Bakarwali dog found locally in hilly areas, and "Ceasar", a Rottweiler, to help security forces tackle violent demonstrations.

"Last month violent protesters pelted stones at our camp and threw petrol bottles. We refrained from firing as this could have led to casualties and instead we unleashed the two who not only chased them away but also ensured they don't assemble again," a senior army officer said.

And not to forget "Tarzan", another German Shepherd, who plays an important part in the perimeter security especially at night and is very responsive to any suspicious activity.

The handlers of these dogs also recall the services of "Mansi", a four-year-old Labrador and a member of army's tracker dog unit, who was the first canine to have been selected for a posthumous war honour.

Mansi was honoured with the 'Mention of Despatches' certificate. Her name will appear in the Gazette of India for making supreme sacrifice for the nation.

She along with her handler had a successful season last year with three kills to their credit. They were involved in the killing of a terrorist at Kaisuri ridge in Tangdhar area, followed by the gunning down of two militants on July 21 last year.

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Sumir Kaul
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