The journey starts from Bhuj. When you come to Bhirandiyara post, it is at fork where one road goes to white ran, Dhordo and other to India Bridge which is the North most border of IB with Pakistan. So the Great Rann is divided where the International Boundary divided it into Indian Rann and Pakistan Rann. When you go towards India Bridge, Khavda is the last village you see which is 90 km from IB. This is the last place you can buy bottled water and eatables.
India Bridge is the last point where civilians can go to. As the name implies there is a bridge on the Rann and then you come across a BSF post. Stopping on the bridge is not allowed and before crossing the bridge, your vehicle is stopped and the same message is conveyed. Same rule applies to photography. Thus this post will not have any photos.
I had special permission to go beyond India Bridge, thanks to a family relative. Hence I was allowed to go to all the way to Vighakot, from where you can see the International Boundary. Now Vighakot is some 60-70 Km into the India Bridge. My phones were kept in the post. Also 6 pm is the last deadline was mentioned for us to return to India Bridge.
10km from India Bridge, you see Dharmsala which is a BSF colony. Also there is a war memorial for soldiers near the colony. Beyond that, there is nothing but Rann on both sides of the road.
The first effect I saw was of mirage. I could see water at the horizon on both sides of the road and on the far end of the road. But as I was told later there was no water anywhere, only an illusion. Many deer too die of this mirage in summers.
We crossed many BOP’s ( Border Outposts) on the way and had to sign our names on registers. Since the person driving the car was local and drove on the rann before, we saw many tracks on the rann on the sides of road where which seemed to be shortcuts. The drive on the wild rann was faster than the road. But also the scare was that I don’t want to go to Pakistan in a Swift, or for that matter in anything.
In my Gujarat trip I tried to find and go to many sanctuaries, I failed to see any animal, but while driving in this Rann, I saw 2-3 deer. This whole Rann from India Bridge to IB is uninhabited by civilian population and hence the cause of wildlife. The whole place looks untouched by human effect except for BSF.
I couldn’t help notice the excellent infrastructure for the border area. There were good roads, electricity transmission towers (maybe they plan to electrify the border fences soon).
The place looked apt for learning to drive with just plain ground as far as your eyes can see. Also I could recall a Swift ad doing whirls in some place like this.
Since it was Feb, the wind was cool and I could imagine what Alia Bhatt’s character would have felt in Highway.
Finally we reached Vighakot. The first thing that strikes you is the silence. Anywhere you sit, you can actually sit and meditate. We were shown in an office, where I was soon joined by the company commander of the post.
He took me to the view point, where I could see the IB and Pakistan side. So interesting thing here is this
- - On the Indian side, from the IB, there is 150 Yards of no man lands, and then 90 km of nothingness called Rann guarded heavily by BSF and then the first village called Khavda
- - On the Pakistan side, there is 150 yards of no-man lands, and then Pakistan Villages. Yes, Village with Water tanks, and then some 2.1 km far there is Pakistan BSF post.
Soon the India side of the border, BSF rules some 90 km of Rann and there are no civilians living in this region, whereas on the Pakistan side, there is civilian population right on the border and BSF posts are behind the border village. The things to deduce from this is Pakistan authorities cares nothing for villagers crossing IB and coming to India, but India spends lakhs on building fences, BSF personnel, infrastructure to prevent any person coming into its territory.
Also he was all praises for the Modi Government like many others defense personnel I have spoken to. The example he gave was that Rajnath Singh visited the IB himself and asked for inputs and when mentioned to him that some km for IB is still unfenced, the task was finished in 3 months flat time. From Mantri to Santri almost everyone is for boosting the confidence of defense personnel on border.
Also I learnt an important concept of load equalization between the BSF and Indian Army, which I didn’t know before. BSF guards the border during the peace time. But during war time, Indian Army comes in control, with BSF as second in command. So BSF personnel spend whole of their life on border remote areas, but in command only during peace. Whereas on the other side is Army, who gets not so remote places as posting but command the situation during time of war. BSF does not retreat as they are the ones with the knowledge of small nuances and help Army during wartime. Army comes once in a while and maintains their equipments, bunker etc and leaves.
Also, this IB is one where there are no gun shots, not even for practice unlike the ones in J&K.
I also got to know of meeting called between the two sides quite often, one being called by Pakistan side, the next day India won the India-Pakistan world cup match. The Pakistan counterparts congratulated the Indians for the victory. These meetings are called to discuss issues related to border or to exchange letters given by the ministry from both sides. One question that came to my mind was that how are these meetings called. It is called by raising the white flag by the side which wants the meeting to be called. Then the opposite side sees the flag raised and then raise their own flag. Then the two sides meet at a designated hour (not beyond 6 pm) and conduct the meeting. It is not to extend beyond 2-3 minutes. Though it is strictly business thing, it does not prevents the two sides to exchange sweets on festivals like Diwali and Eid.
All in all, I felt privileged this day, because I could visit a border post which few civilians have permission to and the glorious, proud feeling which erupt inside you whenever you are singing the national anthem or visit the Wagah Border. Being thankful to the nation that has its own set of issue, but nonetheless gave me opportunities to earn freedom to do things I love in life, basically the life I am living.