Forum Index > Fighting for the Great Rann

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Gaurav Raghuvanshi The Great Rann of Kutch evokes mixed feelings from people who get a chance to visit the barren medley of brackish water, pancake flat land and occasional small hillocks, called `bets'. "When I came here for the first time, I was zapped. Kaushik. "When you come to this place, you can get complete peace of mind," the officer tells a group of journalists visiting the Great Rann as guests of the Indian Army. Mobile phones had stopped functioning 60 km away and soon after we pulled out of Bhuj, the biggest town in the Kutch district of Gujarat. The bus carrying us stops briefly to pick up cigarettes and mineral water bottle for the women journalists who had failed to locate them at Khavda, the last inhabitation before we crossed the `India Bridge' into the Greater Rann. "Civilians are not allowed beyond this point," says Major Bal, our `Conducting Officer' who patiently waits as the women go around in their fruitless effort to locate mineral water bottles. A trifle worried, one asks him if we would get drinking water once inside. "Don't worry, we live there. You are our special guests, and for you guys, we have made VIP arrangements," he remarks. And sure enough, the "guests" are treated not only to water, but the ubiquitous fauji nimbu-pani at all the locations we visit. We cross the India Bridge that spans a stretch of low-lying land filled with brackish water and heaps of shining white salt. One is reminded of fresh snow in Himalayan streams, but the soaring temperature quickly reminds us that we are far away from the hills. The Great Rann is controlled by the Border Security Force (BSF), but `big brother' . the Indian Army, also lends a helping and guiding hand. The India Bridge is manned by the BSF, whose sentries wave at us as we enter the "restricted zone". "No photography of the India Bridge, please," Major Bal reminds us for the nth time, invoking national security. As the bus starts moving one begins to feel a sense of national pride mixed with awe for the BSF and Army who defend this barren tract of land. The land itself is tricky, turning into a huge brackish water lake when water crosses the Allah Bund Buy Cheap Cigarettes Online, a natural dyke that was formed after an earthquake in 1827. The area has been in the news with a joint survey of the international border in the Rann of Kutch between India and Pakistan being under way. One wonders why the two countries spend so much time and effort to mark the border if the land seems to have so little economic value. "Not much is known about the mineral wealth that lies underneath the Rann. But the border is a matter of national pride and security. The Kutch border is clearly demarcated, but the pillars have been washed away in certain areas," says Brig N. George, who commands the Bhuj-based Army brigade. His task is to defend the Rann and nearby areas of the Sir Creek and Kori creek. The Rann has been quiet in recent years and Brig George does not recall any incident of arms and ammunition smuggled from across the border in the sector he defends. "There are instances of small-time smugglers crossing from both sides, but no arms and ammunition has come in through the Rann," he says. Back in the Rann Discount Cigarettes Online, Major Bal announces that we have to switch from the bus to an army truck to reach `Kunwerbet', which, at 12 metres above the sea level, is the highest point in the Great Rann. At Kunwerbet, there is a quick round of photography, along with Lt Col Kaushik, from the highest vantage point in the Rann. The shutterbugs are quickly bored because there is nothing to click except barren white land that makes the background akin to a boring, plain white sheet of paper. However, the Army has more interesting things in store, and the shutterbugs are taken to an area that overlooks a large, barren flat land. "We have a surprise for you," Lt Col Kaushik says almost mysteriously. A moment later, we are asked to focus on the far end of the barren land, where some tanks have started advancing towards us Menthol Cigarettes Brands, raising a lot of dust. "We have planned some military manoeuvres for you. As of now, we are supposed to be the enemy post and those tanks are coming to attack us," says the colonel with a gleeful twinkle in his eyes Best Menthol Cigarettes. Normally, a column of tanks advancing at anyone cannot be a comfortable thought, but we are sure that we are safe. The tanks come and fire blank rounds at us. Nobody is hurt, but we are told that they have "achieved the objective" of capturing the hill where we are located. The "captives" are then treated to a ride in the same tanks and armoured personnel carriers that had "defeated" us moments ago. "This tank has much better suspension than my car," says a woman journalist as the tank goes over a bump and the occupants barely feel anything. By now, the sun has set and the temperature drops to more comfortable levels. After a quick wash and a refreshing round of tea, we head straight for the Bara-khana or dinner with the troops. A huge fire is lit and the soldiers show off their softer skills with rounds of jokes, mimicry and Punjabi and Kumaoni folk songs. The music system in a vehicle is quickly pressed into service and it is time for several rounds of dance around the bonfire with latest Bollywood numbers blaring out of the car stereo. As the spirits lift, life in the Rann is aptly summed up by Lt B Nandakumar, an investment banker turned Artillery officer, who had visited his "gun position" for the first time on that day after being commissioned. "I have joined the Army to live a dream and plan to get back to the corporate world after five years. But today I have discovered that apart from the movements of the Sensex there are other things that can excite you. guns and the Rann." The next day, as young Lt Nandakumar fondly admires his guns, we pull out of the Rann Cheap Cigarettes Online, leaving him and the others to continue defending the barren piece of land that is called the Rann of Kutch.
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