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From “Khoon ki Dalali” to “where is proof”: How opposition parties questioned India’s 2016 Surgical Strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

Notwithstanding the fact that their narrative on Surgical Strikes converged with that of Pakistan, several of the opposition politicians nonetheless continued to raise suspicions over the veracity of the attacks.

In wee hours of September 29, 2016, the Indian Army carried out unprecedented surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), annihilating at least 7 terror launchpads and inflicting heavy casualties on terrorists sheltered in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The strike came nearly 10 days after the brutal terror attack in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir that claimed lives of 18 Indian soldiers.

A unit of elite Parachute regiment snuck across the line of control and wrought devastation with clinical precision to eliminate the terrorists preparing to infiltrate into India through the terror launchpads. The attack heralded a marked shift in India’s stand on the rules of engagement along the line of control and significantly raised the stakes for Pakistan to continue indulging in proxy wars against India with its homegrown terrorists.

The incursion into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to neutralise looming threats to India also demonstrated the Modi government’s commitment to national security and its resolve to punish those responsible for attacking the Indian Armed Forces. It sent an important message to not just the Pakistani establishment but also to all the enemies of the country that the Indian government will not shy away from authorising cross-border attack if needed.

Indian opposition parties toed Pakistani line

However, at a time when the opposition parties in India should have banded together to send a strong message to the adversaries, they instead questioned the Indian Army’s claim of conducting Surgical Strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and sought evidence for the same, echoing Pakistani stand on the raid.

During that time, Pakistan had vigorously denied the occurrence of any surgical strikes in its controlled territory. Pakistan’s denial of the incursion was on expected lines, given that the acceptance of attack would have tantamount to a tacit admission of the presence of terrorists at those launch pads and more importantly admission that the Indian forces carried out the attack right under the nose of its Army.

Notwithstanding the fact that their narrative on Surgical Strikes converged with that of Pakistan, several of the opposition politicians nonetheless continued to raise suspicions over the veracity of the attacks. The Congress party and AAP ran a campaign of sorts to discredit the government by casting aspersions over the authenticity of operation, seeking corroborating evidence to prove the attack and claiming that there was no novelty in the raids and such forays have been carried out by the Army during previous regimes as well.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal demanded proof of Surgical Strikes operation

In the aftermath of the Surgical Strikes when the nationalist sentiments were high, Kejriwal released a rare video congratulating the Modi government and the Indian Army for avenging the deaths of martyrs in Uri attack. However, towards the end of his video, Kejriwal sought a piece of evidence to establish that Surgical Strikes indeed happened, cunningly claiming that he is asking for evidence to bust the Pakistani propaganda that refuted occurrence of any Surgical Strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Delhi CM’s demand for proof was instantly lapped up by Pakistani propagandists to reinforce their narrative that the Surgical Strikes as claimed by India was nothing but a sham. The AAP chief’s video demanding proof for the Surgical Strikes operation created a furore on social media and the Delhi CM was at the receiving end of criticism for raising doubts over the capabilities of the Indian Army.

Even before the Surgical Strikes were conducted by the Indian Army, Arvind Kejriwal was seen toeing the Pakistani propaganda, lauding a trash article which claimed that instead of Pakistan, India is getting isolated globally in the aftermath of the Uri attack by Pakistani sponsored terrorists.

Congress also sought evidence of Surgical Strikes conducted by Indian Army

Besides AAP, leaders of principal opposition party, Congress, also insisted that the government release the proof of the Surgical Strikes conducted by the Indian Army to dispel the Pakistani propaganda of denial surrounding the operation.

Congress leader Manish Tewari placed similar demand as asked by Arvind Kejriwal, asserting that India is losing the global propaganda war on Surgical Strikes to Pakistan.

Another Congress leader, Sanjay Nirupam, also insinuated that the operation executed by the elite Indian commandos was fake and an instrument to extract political mileage. He had at that time tweeted, “Every Indian wants Surgical Strikes against Pakistan but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by BJP.”

Congress pulls off a stunning volte-face, claiming Surgical Strikes were conducted in the past too, Army denies

After raising questions over the validity of the Surgical Strikes that happened on the intervening night of September 29-30, 2016, in response to the Uri attack that had killed Indian soldiers 10 days back, Congress pulled off a remarkable u-turn, going from calling the attacks fake to claiming that surgical strikes were conducted during their rule as well.

Congress had claimed that 6 surgical strikes were conducted in Pakistan during the UPA regime. However, responding to an RTI seeking details of the 6 surgical strikes conducted by the Armed Forces during the Congress rule, the Army said that it did not have any data to substantiate the assertions made by the Congress party.

The applicant had sought details of surgical strikes conducted by the Army during the 2004-2014 period. In its reply, Army DGMO stated: “This section does not hold any data pertaining to surgical strikes if carried out before September 29, 2016.

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Khoon ki dalali’ jibe

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had launched a blistering attack on PM Modi, accusing him of doing “Khoon ki Dalali” with the blood of the soldiers.

The sensational remark for PM Modi, reminiscent of the statement by party chief Sonia Gandhi when she referred to the then Gujarat chief minister Modi as “Maut Ke Saudagaar” (deal-maker of death) in 2007, instantly triggered an avalanche of outrage on social media websites against the Gandhi scion and the Congress party.

The online backlash compelled Rahul Gandhi to issue prompt clarification, wherein he said that he fully supported the surgical strikes but was against using them for political reasons.

Shiv Sena questions the efficacy of surgical strikes against Pakistan

Soon after parted ways with the BJP and formed an unholy alliance with ideological opponents—Congress and NCP—to fulfil its desire to install a Shiv Sainik as the chief minister of Maharashtra, the erstwhile NDA partner in January 2020 raised question on the efficacy of the surgical strikes against Pakistan. The party said that the perception that the surgical strikes will deflate the inimical elements inside Pakistan to mount similar attacks on India remains an illusion, adding that the ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the line of control demonstrate their commitment to continuing hostility with India.

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