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Will give befitting reply if hit: Rajnath after Gurdaspur attack

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that India will give a 'befitting reply' if it is hit, after gunmen stormed a police station in Punjab's Gurdaspur and killed at least six people in an attack described by National Conference leader Omar Abdullah as 'eerily similar' to those in the border areas of Jammu.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2015 19:25 IST
Terrorist attack in Punjab,Terrorist attack in Gurdaspur,Gurdaspur attack
India tightened security along its border with Pakistan on Monday after terrorists dressed in army uniforms stormed a police station in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. (HT Photo)

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that India will give a "befitting reply" if it is hit, after gunmen stormed a police station in Punjab's Gurdaspur and killed at least six people in an attack described by National Conference leader Omar Abdullah as "eerily similar" to those in the border areas of Jammu.

Commenting on the audacious strike, the home minister said: "We want peace with Pakistan, but not at the cost of national honour."

Rajnath Singh stressed India wanted to have cordial relations with Pakistan but was unable to understand why cross-border terror incidents were continuing unabated.

"I want to tell our neighbour that we want peace but not at the cost of our national pride...I have said this earlier and I will say it again that while we will not be the first to attack or fire, but if challenged, will give a befitting reply (muh tod jawab)," he said in Madhya Pradesh's Neemuch.

Soon after the Gurdaspur attack, the home minister spoke to Border Security Force (BSF) chief DK Pathak and told him to step up the vigil along the India-Pakistan border in the wake of the attack that came just a day after India celebrated the 16th Kargil Vijay Diwas -- marking victory in a 1999 war with the nuclear-armed neighbour.

Read: Why Pathankot-Jammu highway is vulnerable to terror attacks

Rajnath Singh, who will make a statement on the Gurdaspur attack in Parliament on Tuesday, also spoke Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, NSA and the home secretary.

Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, said he did not rule out Pakistan's involvement. "There have also been earlier reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area," said Singh, whose constituency in the Jammu region borders Gurdaspur.

Attacks on security installations by militants dressed as soldiers or police are common in Jammu, but Monday's was the first such operation in Punjab in 13 years, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks militant violence.

According to police, the attackers in Gurdaspur first targeted a roadside eatery and took off in a Maruti 800 with Punjab registration number. They shot dead a roadside vendor near the Dinanagar bypass. They then opened fire on a bus before targeting a community health centre adjacent to the Dinanagar police station.

Responding to the crisis, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said: "Special forces, which can counter insurgency and terrorist forces, have been deployed. Army has done all it should."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Parrikar and other senior ministers over the crisis. Finance minister Arun Jaitley and parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu also attended the meeting.

But, even as Rajnath Singh assured the situation will be soon brought under control, the Congress accused the Centre of appeasing Pakistan and there were rowdy scenes in Parliament, where members of the Lok Sabha demanded a resolution condemning the attack.

Earlier this month, Modi met his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif and agreed top security officers from the two countries would meet to discuss counter-terrorism. Modi also agreed to visit Pakistan next year.

Tension between the two countries escalated days after the visit as the neighbours bickered over ceasefire violations and a drone shot down by Pakistan, which claimed India was spying on its soil.

After the first major attack in Punjab for more than a decade, the state's CM Parkash Singh Badal blamed a lack of security on the border.

"This militancy is a national problem, not a state problem, so it needs to be tackled with a national policy," he told reporters.

"If prior intelligence input had been given, they should have properly sealed the borders."

The BSF, meanwhile, sounded an alert and stepped up the vigil along the international border.

"We are on alert. We have enhanced vigil along the entire international border with Pakistan. Our senior officers are currently in the Gurdaspur Sector," BSF IG Anil Paliwal (Punjab Frontier) said.

Read:Sharpshooters sent in to take out attackers after 6 killed in Gurdaspur assault

Gurdaspur attackers heard shouting Islamic slogans: Officials

First Published: Jul 27, 2015 16:59 IST