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Surgical strikes and the political harvesting
In the wee hours of 29 Sept, 2016 the Indian Army conducted a 'surgical strike' on terror launch pads along the LoC, announced DGMO Ranbir Singh, reading out from a statement at a presser. This operation was in response to the terrorist strikes on Indian soil, including the ones in Poonch and Uri on 11 and 18 of Sept respectively, Singh had said.
No sooner this announcement was made drum beating started from the Union ministers, BJP leaders and minions. As is the norm, "No other Prime Minister could do it" blaring was deafening us all.

Harvesting in Punjab

The Punjab government immediately ordered evacuation all along the 450 km long border with Pakistan. Residents of towns and villages, over one thousand, falling within 10 kms radius were ordered to leave their farms and businesses and move either into camps or safer places. Schools were shut and over three lakh students asked to report to safer places. While it is not easy to move out that fast, almost in a few hours, paddy harvesting season added to the farmers' woes. People were troubled how to carry goods and cattle and where to keep them.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had spoken to Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and provided him details about the situation that could develop after the surgical operation and urged him to act fast and get 10 km wide areas all across the border vacated. Punjab's chief minister did not demur and orders went to civil and police officers to act fast. It certainly looked, and for the rest of Punjab too that the coming night would see a war breaking out. 24 hours TV channels added to the panic and commotion, an exodus looked imminent.

Large section of 10 lakh population did hear the warning and started panicking and moving out to whatever places they could think of. They left their cattle and some able bodied persons behind. Old or young people besides women, children and sick moved out. Mostly to their relatives' homes and some into quickly set up camps in educational institutions. As reports emerged, some of these camps had no electricity, water or food arrangement, not even beds; only banners to declare their presence. Journalists who went around found this as a ramshackle arrangement, hardly livable.

Badal made quick two trips in three days and was confronted by angry people. Women were livid and those who had suffered wars and such evacuations told him on his face he should send them to jails. 91-year-old Harbans Singh, a resident of Chinna Bidhi Chand village, close to the border who witnessed wars between India and Pakistan and had faced evacuation every single time summed up the mood: "Evacuation in itself is a painful process. I first faced it in 1947, then in 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars. Every time troops from the army would take position in bunkers along the defence canal. This time, however, the evacuation process has turned into a joke as there is no army but only snakes and insects inside the bunkers. This evacuation is not for war but for other reasons."

This kind of reaction which the elderly chief minister and his MLAs saw at the first hand left them confused and worried. Elections to the state assembly are just a few months away. While some Akalis accused their partner BJP for creating this dreadful situation, the BJP leaders were quick to tell them they have misread and mismanaged the situation. One knave political reading with a section of the ruling coalition was that war imminent and the elections would be delayed. They could reap some dividends.

While majority of the people are back to their farms and homes, the government has been forced to open the schools. And, another full-fledged political war has broken out over the central and state governments getting nearly 1000 villages within 10-km of the international border evacuated.

Opposition are blaming the governments at centre and in the state for unnecessarily building up war hysteria and getting the villages evacuated. The ruling alliance is being blamed for doing so to take advantage in assembly elections to be held in Punjab and UP early next year. Badal, in fact, has become butt of jokes all around Punjab and being more derided than supported in the social media.

While the Punjab government was evacuating the border villages and towns at lightning speed, there was strangely (rather predictably!) no evacuation in the states of J&K, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Were the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the Chief Ministers of the other border states viz J&K, Rajasthan and Gujarat assured by the Sharifs at Islamabad and Rawalpindi that the retaliatory strikes would be confined only along the border in the state of Punjab? Pakistani rulers are also, perhaps, worried about the electoral prospects of Akali-BJP government in Punjab! Pliant national media barring a few honourable exceptions never posed this question to the Modi sarkar. So much for the independent media.

Counter strike in UP

The hype and hoopla of the surgical strike were markedly noticeable in Uttar Pradesh. Posters euologising Modi's dare devil action were no sooner splashed across the state. We are spared from this hangama in the rest of India. Even in the border states minus Punjab and heartland states like Haryana, Bihar, MP, Jharkhand etc, this hysteria is missing. Again the Modi-friendly corporate media did not question this obvious partisan attitude of the ruling party. So much for the accusation of Modi sarkar and BJP that the opposition parties are politicising the surgical strikes. A classic case of pot calling the kettle black.

Some feeble voices from a few moribund Congress leaders were heard about similar operations conducted earlier too. Sharad Pawar told at least four such operations were conducted during his tenure as the defence minister. These were all drowned in the cacophonous frenzy created by the nationalism unlimited industry.

Operation Ginger

At this juncture, The Hindu newspaper has published a report on the Operation Ginger conducted by the Indian Army on Aug 29 & 30, 2011 during the UPA 2.

About the operation

Pakistani raiders struck a remote army post in Gugaldhar ridge in Kupwara, on July 30, 2011, surprising the six soldiers from the Rajput and Kumaon regiments. The attacking team took back the heads of Havildar Jaipal Singh Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh of 20 Kumaon. A soldier of the 19 Rajput Battalion, who reported the attack, died later in a hospital.

In revenge, the Indian Army planned Operation Ginger. After repeated recce over two months, the Army launched Operation Ginger on Aug 30, 2011. For the strike, about 25 soldiers reached their launch-pad at 3 a.m. on Aug 29 and hid there until 10 p.m. They then crossed over the Line of Control to reach close to Police Chowki. By 4 a.m. on Aug 30, the ambush team was deep within the enemy territory waiting to strike.

Over the next hour, claymore mines were placed around the area and the commandos took positions for the ambush. At 7 a.m. on August 30, the troops saw four Pakistani soldiers, led by a JCO, walking towards the ambush site. They waited till the Pakistanis reached the site then detonated the mines. In the explosions all four were grieviously injured. Then the raiding commandoes lobbed grenades and fired at them.

One of the Pakistani soldiers fell into a stream that ran below. Indian soldiers rushed to chop off the heads of the other three dead soldiers. They also took away their rank insignias, weapons and other personal items. The commandos then planted pressure IED's beneath one of the bodies, primed to explode when anyone attempted to lift the body. Hearing the explosions, two Pakistani soldiers rushed from the post but were killed by a second Indian team waiting near the ambush site. Two other Pakistani army men tried to trap the second team but a third team covering them from behind eliminated the two, says an official report.

While the Indian soldiers were retreating, another group of Pakistani soldiers were spotted moving from Police Chowki towards the ambush site. Soon they heard loud explosions, indicating the triggering of the IEDs planted under the body. According to assessment, at least two to three more Pakistani soldiers were killed in that blast.

The operation had lasted 45 minutes, and the Indian team left the area by 7.45 a.m. to head back across the LoC. They had been inside enemy territory for about 48 hours, including for reconnaissance. At least eight Pakistani troops had been killed and another two or three more Pakistani soldiers may have been fatally injured in the action. Three Pakistani heads - of Subedar Parvez, Havildar Aftab and Naik Imran - three AK 47 rifles and other weapons were among the trophies carried back by the Indian soldiers.

The severed heads were photographed and buried on the instructions of senior officers. Two days later, one of the senior most Generals in the command turned up. "When he came to know that we had buried them, he was furious and asked us to dig up the heads, burn them and throw the ashes into the Kishenganga, so that no DNA traces are left behind. We did so," said the source.


Even while Sushma Swaraj, the then leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, was roasting and teasing the UPA government in Jan 2013 by her outburst (If we don't get Hemraj's head, let's get 10 of theirs), the UPA govt maintained some levelheadedness to keep mum on the mutual beheading horror enacted in 2011. No Army officer was forced to brief this operation. And none was bragging about the incident.

But I am appalled at the barbarity of the armed forces of India and Pakistan in severing the heads of soldiers. It is sickening but yet we call it retaliatory action by the brave hearts. Do we live in a civilised world to indulge in such inhuman acts? Are we worthy of being called human beings? Is it not coming under the list of war crimes?

Once in a few decades, such information from state archives must be released to the public so that people can study and judge their rulers. People do have a right to know the past to shape their future in the right direction. Western democracies are doing this. When will India become a matured democracy to share such information at least once in 25 years?


1) ''Stirring up war hysteria in the time of elections'' by Gobind Thukral in Orissa Post newspaper/Oct 06, 2016.

2) ''Operation Ginger: Tit-for-tat across the Line of Control'' by Vijaita Singh and Josy Joseph in The Hindu newspaper/ Oct 09, 2016.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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