Armed response to trespassing
Kargil- The second largest town in the district of Ladakh is a place that has mostly been in the news for violent conflicts and unrest because of its geographical location from the line of control India shares with Pakistan. An image of a war-stricken area is what I had painted of the place before I visited in 2018 as part of my 2-week bike ride.
I was blown away by the beauty of the place, and while riding, beauty can be a problem: you often tend to stop to absorb the beauty in stillness and to obviously capture a few pictures. My friend and I reached Kargil around sunset, and the rest of the evening was spent roaming the area around our hotel. We were on Day 8 of the trip, and the next day was extremely crucial for us in terms of covering the distance to keep up with the plan.
After visiting the Kargil War memorial in Drass, we both set off for Patnitop, which was 340km away and required at least 10 hours of riding because of the terrain. I don’t recollect what caused the delay, but we were only able to make it to Srinagar(~200km from Kargil) by 4 pm. We still had 150 odd km to Patnitop, and we both were confident about making it before 7 pm.
That’s when cops decided to stop us.
During the time of our visit, the yearly pilgrimage season was open for the Amarnath cave temple and there were traffic restrictions post 4 pm at the border. Apparently, there is a stretch of road in the Srinagar-Jammu highway that is unsafe for night riding, as cops and army personnel don’t have jurisdiction.
Long story short: we had to spend the night in Srinagar. After finding accommodation, my friend and I decided to get an early dinner and hit the sack to leave before sunrise the next day. As we were walking through the streets of Srinagar, a warning board caught my attention: Armed response to trespassing. There was also an image next to the warning, just in case, people didn’t understand.
I didn’t see this warning in just one house, but similar warnings were put up on most of the properties in the lanes I visited. I have seen warnings along the lines of ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’, but this was just at another level. I was scared to click a picture of the warning as I could have trespassed through my camera’s lens! Definitely, the city didn’t feel like the other places I had visited in the country. Probably because the place was under army rule during our visit!
The next day, before the clock struck 4 in the morning, our bikes were idling in the hotel portico, and we were both set to get out of the place as soon as possible. As we crossed the first checkpost, where we were stopped initially, there was a certain sense of relief and it felt like we were back on track.
After the sun had fully risen, I got to witness the killing rampage I had gone on because of my helmet. I ran into hordes of insects at different stretches, and based on the number of spots that were created on my visor from insect splatter, it seemed like I am the one who had an armed response!