On January 1, Jaspal Singh, a farmer in the border village of Bamial, took the usual round of his fields where he grows wheat, with a small patch dedicated to growing garlic. It was then that he noticed the grass bent over in the wheat field, and heavy footprints on soft ground of his garlic-growing patch.
“I did not think much about it then,” Jaspal told The Indian Express.
It was only the next day when he attended the funeral of Ikagarh Singh, a taxi driver from the neighbouring Bagwal village, that the footprints came back to him.
At the funeral, many speculated about Ikagarh being killed by the same men who had attacked the airbase.
“There were some BSF and intelligence officials present at the cremation and I told them about it (footprints). I also went to Bamial police chowki and informed the head constable about it. They were busy with the CM’s visit. Later, I met SHO Kuldeep Singh on my way home. By that time it was dark and I asked him to come the next day,” said Jaspal.
BSF, Punjab Police, forensic experts and other agencies visited the field to investigate the prints on Tuesday. The footprints left on the soft ground were measured, and their pictures clicked and impressions lifted. Pointing to two sets of heavy-boot prints, Jaspal told The Indian Express that he had noticed at least six on the first day.
The NIA team that reached the spot walked through the muddy wheat field trying to trace the path that the terrorists may have taken.
The team was accompanied by Bagwal sarpanch Amardeep Singh with whom Jaspal claims to have shared his suspicion about the footprints.
Later, Jaspal was asked by the NIA officials about the possible route that the terrorists might have taken to enter his fields.
Jaspal Singh’s fields are located between a 4-metre wide water channel and a 150-metre wide river outlet, both of which converge near the Pakistan border. The 100-metre unfenced gap over the river outlet near the border is guarded on both sides by the BSF. Jaspal told the NIA that the terrorists may have emerged through the water channel and entered his fields using a cement pole that lies across it and is used for crossing it.
A BSF official later told the NIA that they had found nothing irregular so far in their inspection of the area. While the NIA team looked at the gap in the fence on the International Border from about 500 metres away, they neither asked for a visit for closer inspection, nor were they offered the same by the BSF.
The NIA team also inspected the river outlet. Apart from the gap in fencing on border near Bamial, NIA also looked at a similar gap near Chhani village.