The Cabinet Committee on Security met on 26 June 2002 and decided that, “the troops will stay on the borders till October. There will be no scaling down of the preparedness.” If this ‘preparedness’ includes the mines laid along the border, more mine victims – civilian and military – can be expected.
The current mining of the border commenced with the troop build-up in December 2001, following the attack on the Indian Parliament. According to media reports, two phases of mine laying were completed in January 2002, and the third and final phase for protecting strategic targets near the border was to commence later. The extent of mining is unknown, though reports indicate that it is along 1800 miles of the Indo-Pak border. There are no records on the number of casualties so far.
The following list depicts the incidents reported in the press within two months of mine laying.
· Sriganganagar: An anti-tank mine exploded while being unloaded from a tank, wounding five people, three of them students. The injured were helping Army jawans to unload mines when it went off. The pulling of the fuse of a mine led to the blast.
· Jaisalmer: One person was injured and twenty sheep died. The explosion occurred when the sheep stepped on the mine.
· Batala: Three Army personnel were killed when a landmine they were laying went off accidentally.
: An army jawan was killed and five others injured in two landmine blasts near the Line of Control in
. A jawan was blown up when he stepped on a landmine during an exercise.
: A cyclist trying to cross into a fenced minefield was blown to bits on New Year’s Day. A week earlier, a child was wounded in the same area.
: Lakha Singh was taking a shortcut to reach his field, when a landmine blew up under his left foot which had to be amputated. Three other villagers, from the same village, were maimed by landmines between 16 and 20 January 2002 and. They were treated at the government hospital and provided interim compensation of Rs. 5000 (approximately US$ 110).
: On 5 January, at least 18 persons, including 15 soldiers, were killed while transporting landmines. Reports indicate that the mishap took place due to improper handling of mines while they were being unloaded.
: The landmine blast that took place in one of the country’s biggest ordnance factories is being taken very seriously, though there were no casualties. Production of fuses of anti-tank mines at the Khamaria factory has been stopped.
This is the first time that
has laid mines in 30 years; the last time the border (or sections of it) were mined was in 1971. The Indian mine policy, as articulated in various disarmament forums, is not to mine in peacetime. It is pertinent that
did not resort to mining even at the height of the insurgency in
a decade ago – the reason being that mines were not part of
’s counter-insurgency doctrine.
A decade ago, Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) regulating mine use and the Mine Ban Treaty banning the use of mines had not been enacted. Now that
is a signatory to Protocol II and despite
not violating any of its treaty obligations, this has become an issue because the use of mines has now become taboo following an active campaign against it by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Even states not party to the Mine Ban Treaty receive negative publicity when they use mines.
Mines do not deter insurgents; hence, previous Indian governments did not resort to the use of mines even at the peak of insurgency in
. Militants can enter
, in addition to using its long and open coastline. And, it is definitely not a cheaper alternative to manning the borders considering the manual and financial resources required to maintain and demine these minefields laid in civilian areas.
So, the question arises why the Indian government chose to mine now, when millions are being spent to demine existing minefields and the fresh laying of mines has considerably reduced world over. The only answer is that the government is making a political statement by amassing its troops on the border, and laying extensive minefields, which is normally a prelude to active hostilities. This kind of political adventurism is the hallmark of the NDA government; it exercised the nuclear option within two months of taking over. But, it is the people who will pay the price with their limbs if demining does not commence very soon.