SRINAGAR: Within minutes of the attack on the Indian Army base at Uri on Sunday, wireless sets began crackling at all establishments of the security agencies in Srinagar. With inputs indicating an imminent terror attack by a suicide squad of the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) believed to be hiding in Srinagar, all establishments were immediately set to the highest state of alert.
On the pre-dawn watch, manning post number 6 on the perimeter of this particular security establishment, Arun Kumar (name changed) was surveying the ground below with his binoculars, his Insas rifle ready by his side. He could see the glimmer of a Pakistani flag still fluttering atop a telephone tower and he wondered why the local police had not removed it.
Then, breaking the silence, his wireless set began flashing a message from the control room: immediately switch off the lights.
In the pitch dark, men took up positions in every nook and corner of the campus, and the entire force was put at stand to. Still in their civils, they were ordered to quickly put on their uniforms and bullet-proof jackets, carry weapons with extra magazines and night vision binoculars. The entry and exit gates were sealed and men were posted around the perimeter. Outside the gates, bullet-proof mobile bunkers stood ready and Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) were posted at different points.
Civilians, visiting for some work and lodged on campus, were instructed to remain indoors, not switch on the lights and take every other precaution necessary. "If there is a militant attack, don't come out. Wait for the QRTs to neutralize them. Hide under the bed or take cover anywhere and wait for further instructions. Stay away from the windows," were the orders.
Right through the day and into the early hours of the morning, men patrolled the campus. Even senior officers, all in their uniforms, went round the campus or kept vigil in the control room.
No Sunday is normal in Srinagar, but there's room for some sports or cultural activity for the soldiers and officers. But post-Uri, the air was thick with tension. "Nothing can be left to chance after we have seen what happened in the morning,'' said a soldier. "We are on stand-to. Mo one goes out or comes in. No one goes on leave. We can hardly sleep. After patrolling the entire area, a company gets four hours to catch some sleep. At 4 am sharp, one company hands over the watch to another.''
This particular security establishment is located at a slightly higher elevation from where one gets a bird's eye view of not only Humhama but also Srinagar. The jawans entrusted with the task of securing the perimeter have been an angry lot over the last two months.
There are four places of worship close to the perimeter. Deliberately or otherwise, each place of worship, fully air-conditioned, has erected several loudspeakers addressed to every corner of the locality. For the last two months the sermons heard on the loudspeakers have been venomously anti-India. After the sermons, they play Urdu taraney (songs) which exhort youngsters to take to the streets and teach the security forces a lesson.
"Yeh sab hamare naak ke nichey boltey hain. Hamare haath bandhey hain nahin to iska jawab dena aata hai (this happens right under our noses. Our hands are tied otherwise we can give a befitting reply to them),'' fumes an officer. "The government gives us a weapon, but the same government does not want it to be used. If used, then the soldier could be jailed or hanged."