Tributes, political barbs mark one year of Pulwama
The Pulwama suicide car bombing, for which the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group owned responsibility, was the deadliest single attack in 30 years of insurgency in Kashmir.Updated: Feb 15, 2020 01:04 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers who died in the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir a year ago to the day on Friday, as the Congress and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engaged in a political slugfest.
“Tributes to the brave martyrs who lost their lives in the gruesome Pulwama attack last year. They were exceptional individuals who devoted their lives to serving and protecting our nation. India will never forget their martyrdom,” Modi wrote in a Twitter post.
The CRPF joined the prime minister in recalling the victims of the attack, in which a man drove an explosives-laden car into a truck carrying the troopers in Pulwama. “We pay our heartfelt tribute to all the martyrs. CRPF is a brave fighting force on the federal grid and remains undeterred by any untoward incident,” CRPF director general AP Maheshwari, said.
The Pulwama suicide car bombing, for which the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group owned responsibility, was the deadliest single attack in 30 years of insurgency in Kashmir. It heightened tensions in the subcontinent, and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force (IAF) bombed a Jaish terrorist camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan, followed by a dogfight the following day over the Line of Control in Kashmir.
The Congress raised questions about the attack and the inquiry into it, and asked why the report on it was not being made public.It has previously alleged that the BJP had tried to gain political and electoral mileage out of the Balakot strikes by the IAF.
“Today as we remember our 40 CRPF martyrs in the #PulwamaAttack, let us ask: 1. Who benefitted the most from the attack? 2. What is the outcome of the inquiry into the attack? 3. Who in the BJP Govt has yet been held accountable for the security lapses that allowed the attack?” former Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the entire nation paid homage to the martyrs of Pulwama; still, many questions remain about the attack.
“Why is the report of Pulwama attack not being made public? Who is accountable? Who brought the 350 Kgs IED? Why were intelligence reports of attack ignored?” he tweeted. IED is short for improvised explosive device.
The BJP was quick to hit back, with minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy accusing Gandhi of insulting security forces. “Did surgical strike or airstrike ever take place under the Congress rule? For the first time, Pakistan is afraid of us. Rahul Gandhi has insulted security forces by commenting on them,” he said.
And, BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said Gandhi had chosen to target not just the government but even the security forces at a time when the nation was paying tributes to those killed in the Pulwama attack.
“When nation is paying homage to martyrs of dastardly Pulwama attack, Rahul Gandhi, a known sympathizer of LeT & Jaish-e-Mohammed, chooses to target not just the government but security forces as well. Rahul will never question real culprit, Pakistan. Shame on you Rahul,” tweeted Narasimha Rao.
Even the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), questioned the government about the inquiry report on the attack and demanded accountability, accusing the BJP of seeking votes in the name of the CRPF personnel killed in the attack. “Where is the Inquiry report one year on after the terror attack? Who has been held accountable for the loss of so many lives and the massive intelligence failure?” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
Separately, the CRPF said on Friday that the families of all its personnel who died in Pulwama had been paid dues ranging from ~2-3 crore and were getting the last pay drawn as monthly pension, except one over which a case is pending in the courts because of questions over who the legal heir is.
The victims were honoured on Friday with a memorial at the Lethpora camp of the force, close to the location of last year’s attack, in a solemn and emotive ceremony. The memorial is inscribed with the names of all the 40 troopers along with their photographs and the motto of the Central Reserve Police Force -- ‘Seva and Nishtha’ (Service and Loyalty).
Maharashtra’s Umesh Gopinath, who undertook a 61,000 km journey to meet the families of the 40 troopers, collected soil from their homes in an urn and presented it to the CRPF at the ceremony.