Kaman Post and the bridge of peace!
By: M S Nazki
The place was made with a noble purpose, the cross LOC Trade became functional and so did the visits of broken families and then suddenly one day Pakistan decided to stop it!
*It still remains plugged off but maybe, just maybe tomorrow some sense prevails for the better!
The story of the cross LOC trade and paving the pathway for making the same families staying on either side of the line of control meet each other was something that was being termed as a fabulous gesture, an indication that humanity was prevalent and the things could still be pulled back to normal. But as it happens in Indo-Pak gestures this one too started with all the cordiality but then later the steam blew off and the fault lines were again on the Pakistan side and thus everything came crashing down. But the legends still stand and are being maintained at Salamabad and Chakothi. On the Indian side is the Kaman Post in the name of a stupendous soldier Lt. Col. Kaman Singh Pathania. This story takes me into a tale of the past which goes something like this:
Once upon a time there were two countries, at war with each other. In order to make peace after many years of conflict, they decided to build a bridge across the ocean. But because they never learned each other’s language properly, they could never agree on the details, so the two halves of the bridge they started to build never met. To this day the bridge extends far into the ocean from both sides, and simply ends half way, miles in the wrong direction from the meeting point. And the two countries are still at war!
People on both sides were loving it. After all those separated during the partition times they always longed to meet each other, touch each other and feel each other. This was a chance that they have got after ages but it would be so short lived they never anticipated. Through its creative power, art may trigger approximation, reconciliation and harmonization between individuals and peoples. Through art, beings can meet and exchange their points of view, as it rules out alienation, and arouses chemistry and understanding. By definition, art is universal and helps to cross borders and barriers without prejudice. This could have been the next part of the story but it could never be. The bigger guns from across were singing and displaying their talents in Mumbai but these smaller finger fries had yet to show case their art which is basically all in writing Many great things have been written since this was a big land mass but stupid follies by Pakistan spoiled a well begun show! Now only the memoirs remain but there is always a hope on the horizon.
The people on both sides still believe we are not sheep or cows. God didn’t create fences for us or boundaries to contain our nationalities. Man did. God didn’t draw up religious barriers to separate us from each other. Man did. And on top of that, no father would like to see his children fighting or killing each other. The Creator favors the man who spreads loves over the man who spreads hate. A religious title does not make anyone more superior over another. If a kind man stands by his conscience and exhibits truth in his words and actions, he will stand by God regardless of his faith. If mankind wants to evolve, we must learn from our past mistakes. If not, our technology will evolve without us.
I have many stories in my fancy bag which I always carried to jot down incidents when I was posted as a young man on the LOC. Subsequently too on my many visits I carried the bag though the brand changed with time and trendy stuff came in. but this story is in one of my diaries of the older packs. I titled it a Saliya, her husband and her baby. In the furor of the militancy in the early nineties one night the husband just stepped across the brook on the LOC with the baby girl leaving the wife here with her parents. Since we were taking over the outgoing company commander told me this story but also added that the husband and wife do meet and at times both are together on our side of the LOC but the lady does not cross over. We did keep an eye on the house but one day I saw her father, a respected man of the village looking worried. The man was always talking, helping the people and telling the restless villages to be patient as the bad days would go, but today he was morose and sad. I asked him and after a reasonable amount of coaxing and cajoling he said that his granddaughter was sick and she was on the other side. I asked him as to how he knew, the answer was what we would call in the technological language a voice message but it was a message given to the mother Saliya vocally from across. Although I wanted to do something but could not have. The best man is always the RMO to talk about such things but the baby was on the other side. The father was saying that the baby would die. The commanding officer also came to know about it but the query from him was ‘what do they usually do?’ I got the answer from the father, ‘usually my son-in-law crosses over and hands over the daughter to her mother’. I had yet another one, why did he take the baby with him? The answer was that my son-in- law just has a mother and a younger brother and this kid is her grandmother’s favorite. They used to stay here but they just walked across and settled because they had land there also and took their cattle away? Yes the whole fiasco was a security risk but I got the nod to tell the father to get the child back. We sat waiting behind the bushes and after midnight we could see the child weeping. The father handed over the baby to the father and left.The next day the RMO was treating the small girl Rehana and her mother Saliya stood with tears in her eyes ! Rehana till we were there never went back. What happened after that I do not know but I kept seeing the family happy and smiling and may be conveying the well being via voice messages tll I was there! If parents want success stories to share at gatherings they should provide themselves with those, and they should not use their children for that purpose. Children are precious and their innocent principles know no borders or LOC’s!
To facilitate the cross border trade and meeting of the fractured families after this plan was put into motion. The bridge of peace was made called Aman Setu with some great lines of Mehjoor the poet were inscribed on it and up came tha Kaman post to help out the travelers. But as I keep saying that every place has a history, this one too has and that to a big one:
- On 18 May 1948, during the Kashmir operations, the third Battalion of Royal Garhwal Rifles less than one company was given the task of securing the Trehgam ridge.
- Lieutenant Colonel Kaman Singh himself conducted this attack against very heavy resistance. He went up to his forward platoons and led the attack personally, encouraging and cheering his men.
*Again on 17 June, his battalion of less two companies was given the task of carrying out a raid on a strongly held position on the Buni ridge beyond Tithwal.
*In spite of heavy enemy fire, the attack, although uphill, was carried out with such dash and speed that the enemy fled in utter consternation leaving behind many dead and wounded.
- But the enemy, having rallied, put in three successive counter-attacks with large numbers. All these attacks were repulsed by the company with heavy losses to the enemy, including one Lieutenant Colonel killed.
- Throughout the operation Lieutenant Colonel Kaman Singh’s handling of his battalion was tactically very sound and his leadership and personal example of courage and determination were of a very high order.
The family of the valiant Colonel was unhappy:
- While the ‘Aman’ bridge on the LoC has helped in bringing together divided Kashmiri families, the renaming of the ‘Kaman Pul’ as ‘Aman Setu’ had not gone down well with the family members of late army officer Kaman Singh Pathania, who died at this last post on the Indian border.
- The bridge was named ‘Kaman pul’ in 1956 in the memory of Lt. Col. Kaman Singh, the hero of ‘ Tithwal war’ in 1948 who died at the post. He was also awarded the Mahavir Chakra.
*Kanwaljit Singh, the son of Lt. Col. Pathania said he and other family members were happy over the launching of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service but did not like the renaming of the bridge which amounts to forgetting the heroic deeds of the great soldier.
- He said the bridge has bridged the gap between the people of two countries and the second bus service had also been launched successfully but neither the hero of the post nor his family members were remembered on the occasion.
- We were not even informed about the change in name of the bridge and we came to know about it from the media.
Later on the matter was sorted out as up came the Kaman Post which holds greater significance as it overlooks the Aman Setu. The whole place is extremely well maintained and every year renovations are carried out and this year also the same was done with precision and deftness a hallmark of the Indian Army.
- Kaman post named after Late Lieutenant Colonel Kaman Singh Pathania, MVC, is the first post of Indian Army on National Highway 1A, the Baramulla – Kaman road and leads to Muzaffarabad in PoK.
- As part of Confidence Building Measures, the trade and bus service between the two countries was conducted through the Kaman trade point established on this post.
- Indian Army has renovated the cafeteria at Kaman Post and has also installed a 60 feet National Flag Pole.
*Kaman Post is one of major attractions for visitors, especially for motivational tours of schools and colleges. The post is especially popular for its view across the Line of Control.
- Well the purpose for which it was made has been held in abeyance but the cherished hope that it may well Tee off again still lingers on. Till that happens it will continue to stand upright as a place through which the breeze of peace, tranquility and calm flows. As far as the people staying on the Pakistani side of LOC the feeling is still there, our lives, our stories, flow into one another’s, are no longer our own, individual, discrete but of humanity as one part of us stays on the Indian side. We know senses empower limitations, senses expand vision within borders, senses promote understanding through pleasure. But this thing the Pak leadership does not understand. Hopefully they will now because they too have begun realizing that peace pays in abundance and violence gives losses in multiples!