Row over surgical strikes deepen as govt, Oppn bicker about ‘evidence’
Under pressure from the Congress and other opposition parties to release proof of the September 29 “surgical strikes” against militant camps in PoK, the government on Tuesday hit back at the rivals for questioning the “courage of the armed forces”.
Five days after the two sides were on the same page over the raid, the much-publicised army operation has turned into a political slugfest, with the opposition asking the government to furnish evidence to call “Pakistan’s bluff”.
Pakistan has dismissed India’s claims, saying the raid was nothing but cross-border firing.
“In the garb of demanding proof, please don’t belittle the courage and sacrifice of the armed forces,” minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Tuesday.
The Congress said it had not questioned the army’s claims and supported the government’s action. “There has never been a reason to raise a question or doubt the statements by DGMO on surgical strike,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi had supported armed forces and the government on surgical strikes and “we reaffirm the same”, he said.
Urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu said the proof would be presented at an appropriate time.
“No one has any question about the strikes except the Congress and the chief minister of Delhi. I want to tell them they should not worry about the evidence. It will be presented,” Naidu said in Kanpur.
Union minister Uma Bharti slammed politicians seeking evidence of the strikes and said, “Those leaders who say that if Pakistan is demanding evidence about surgical strike, they should be given the evidence, such people should take the citizenship of Pakistan.”
In an early morning raid on September 29, Indian soldiers struck militants planning to infiltrate into India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The strikes came 10 days after an attack on an army camp in Uri left 19 soldiers dead.
Upcoming elections in the five states could be the reason why the opposition is asking for proof but couching it as a must to quash Pakistan propaganda.
No one would like to be seen questioning the armed forces who enjoy mass appeal in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand which are among the five poll-bound states.
Praising the Prime Minister, Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal had in a video message on Monday asked Narendra Modi to release proof to “unmask” Pakistan propaganda.
Several Pakistani newspapers and international media outlets reported his comments, doubting India’s version of events.
Prasad asked Kejriwal if he believed in the valour of Indian forces. “If so, then why is he swayed by alleged false propaganda asking proof to be given.”
The CM said Tuesday he had no doubts that the strikes were conducted but Modi should give a “befitting reply” to Islamabad.
Prasad also criticised former home minister P Chidambaram who said the demand for a proof was expected after the government went public with the strikes. The UPA government, too, had hit militant bases in PoK but didn’t publicise the strikes.
“Is Chidambaram joining the bandwagon of people of creating a doubt about the strike and belittling the armed forces?” Prasad said, urging Sonia Gandhi to clarify if the comments reflected the party line.
Digvijaya Singh echoed Chidambaram’s views. “Our credibility is at stake Modiji/(national security adviser Ajit) Dovalji. Release video footage immediately,” he tweeted.
The Congress, however, disassociated from Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupam’s tweet. “Every Indian wants #SurgicalStrikesAgainstPak but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by #BJP. Politics over national interest,” Nirupam had tweeted.