Nine riflewomen of the para-military force Assam Rifles were deployed at the Sadhna Pass earlier called the Nastachun Pass on the Kupwara-Tangdhar highway in July this year, the first women soldiers in combat functioning under the Army, as part of a series of steps taken recently to contain smuggling of narcotics from across the Line of Control (LoC).
With a series of measures, close to 80 kg narcotics, mostly brown sugar, was seized in the Tangdhar sector alone this year, a senior officer deployed in the sector near the LoC said. Last year too, a little less than 80 kg narcotics was seized. Officials also raised concern on several villages ahead of the border fence which are used as safe grounds to abet smuggling.
The anti-narcotics grid has been strengthened with women soldiers, narco dogs and x-ray machines. If someone can bring narcotics, tomorrow they can also bring fake currency and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), the officer said. Narcotics smuggling has been going for sometime but the recoveries increased significantly in the last two years, he said.
In addition, checking is carried at various points and intelligence-based operations are being carried out to search and siege narcotics. The nine women soldiers were deployed at the pass at over 10,000 feet and three of them are on duty at any point of time, another officer said. There were two major narcotic recoveries since they were inducted and they underwent a special 21-day orientation capsule at the 15 Corps Battle school before deployment.
The riflewomen handle all women-related tasks and have separate accommodation and wash rooms within the camp, the second officer said. They are acting as a major deterrent. Earlier we used to get specific intelligence that a certain woman was carrying narcotics. But we couldnt do anything, he said.
Talking about her experience, Riflewoman Nitu Kumari from Bihar said the local population was happy to see women soldiers. They share their issues with us. Their children are inspired by us, she said talking to a small group of journalists at the Sadhna Pass.
Riflewoman H Wanjen Konyek from Nagaland and the seniormost of the woman soldiers said it was a good experience. On the challenges they faced, she said, Weather is getting cold and thats challenging. Some women soldiers have been deployed at couple of other locations in Kashmir for similar duties.
Four narco dogs have been inducted in the Tangdhar Brigade under the Assam Rifles and the BSF. At the Sadhna pass, x-ray machines have also been installed which have simplified screening of baggage. Local government and police officials too expressed concern on the growing narco smuggling and trade. The cost of the narcotic substances goes up exponentially as they cross the LoC into North Kashmir and to South Kashmir and further to rest of India and this indirectly funds terrorism, an officer said.
Villages beyond border fence
Along the LoC, there are several villages which are ahead of the border fence. For instance, there are 12 such villages in the Tangdhar sector. In addition, there are several naalas where there is no fence which create gaps making monitoring tough. When people are staying close to the fence, smuggling is possible, another officer said.