Fifteen years ago, on this very land, a fierce battle was fought to overthrow intruders from Pakistan. Today, under the shadow of elections, the discourse in the state has predictably veered towards controversial topics of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, encounters and army-to-people ties. But here is a story that has not been told very often. In the second coldest inhabited place in the world, Drass, what else but ice has helped break the ice between the two, often-quarelling ends.
Located close to the battalion headquarters of 10 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) of the Indian Army is the ice hockey ground where youngsters from the town gather to play their favourite local sport. Maintained with the support of the army, it was while seeing an ice hockey game last year that it crossed the minds of three men from JAKLI of doing what has never been thought of – far less achieved – a band performing while marching and skating on the ice! When these men expressed their wish to their senior officers, they were instantly encouraged. “Three of us thought about it and last year we did manage some practice. But it was only this year, from January 15 onwards that we managed regular practice,” said a team member.
What made this practice possible, given that the army personnel did not have enough snow boots with skates, were the boots which local youngsters gave the army. Zakir Hussian, a local teacher, when interviewed said, “There is a lot of bonhomie out here between us and the army, in particular this unit since the members of JAKLI are all Kashmiri recruits. When we saw that they were falling short in the number of snow boots, we volunteered immediately.” He quipped, “They will even perform during the semi-final of our local ice hockey tournament.”