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Here Is the Indian Neta, Who’ll Seek Votes Even on Blood of Jawans

Where was the outrage & state honours when CRPF personnel died in major Maoist attacks in 2010 & 2017?

Published
Opinion
5 min read
Image used for representational purposes.
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The flames on the funeral pyres of the martyred soldiers of Pulwama have yet to die, and political games on the attack have already begun. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had already blamed the government, possibly even accusing it of orchestrating the same by questioning the timing of the attack.

Her comment – ‘Why did this happen when elections are around the corner, and just after the parliament session had ended’ – leaves more questions than answers.

What the Opposition’s Fussing About

Similar comments have been echoed by Kumaraswamy, the Karnataka Chief Minister. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu stated, “Pakistan has made it clear that it has no role in the Pulwama attack. Suspicion is now strengthening across the country that political expediency could be behind the attack.”

Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti continued to play the “talks” card, demanding that the government initiate talks with Pakistan. Omar Abdullah, not to be left behind, jumped in to question the withdrawal of security to separatists, and those not entitled to the same. In UP, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, also joined the bandwagon of critics.

The main attack was launched by the Congress, when it posed a collection of questions to the prime minister, seeking answers. Its main issues included the government’s unwillingness to accept intelligence failures and the ignoring of the early warning of a pending strike. Charges also included the failure of the government in not permitting air travel to members of the CAPFs, and the PM shooting a video on tiger conservation on the same day, while being out of communication from Delhi for three hours.

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Intel Can Fail, As It Did in Pulwama. Let’s Accept It.

The Congress claimed that the government had not declared national mourning as it wanted to politicise the incident. It had, a day prior, questioned the presence of the PM at the airport receiving the Saudi Crown Prince, and his resorting to a traditional hug. It claimed that the Saudi Crown Prince supports Pakistan and hence, such excessive protocol should have been avoided.

The BJP in its defence, skirted the main issues raised by the Congress, but instead, claimed its actions were lowering the morale of the armed forces and it was echoing the words of Pakistan. It defended the PM, stating he was on an official engagement.

However, in a democracy, it is the responsibility of the Opposition to raise issues against the government, while the government is duty bound to answer them.

Some aspects raised by the Congress need clarification, however. In my opinion and experience, intelligence inputs are, on occasion, vague and unclear. Very rarely are they to the point, and clearly actionable. It was the same in this case, where there was an indication of an IED blast in a general sense. However, as even admitted by the J&K Governor, it was clearly an intelligence failure, and this should have been accepted.

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Kashmir is Our Territory – Why Travel Here in Fear?

The non-availability of the PM is an issue which should be addressed. The suicide attack was not a national emergency, nor was it possible that it could have flared into an immediate confrontation with Pakistan. However, considering the environment surrounding India, the PM, as the main decision-maker, should never be out of communication. It is a major national security weakness and needs to be addressed on priority. It cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

Air travel, as charged by the Congress, is permitted for army jawans as a means of saving time, not to avoid road travel. A jawan travels four times a year on leave, but by air only once.

A missed fact is that we are in India; Kashmir is our territory and we should travel the way we desire in our territory – not fear terrorists and adopt alternate options. If road travel is blocked for jawans and only travel by air resorted to, it would only enhance the confidence of terrorists, with them claiming that they control roads, with security forces afraid to travel. This situation can never be permitted to arise.
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Revisiting CRPF Deaths in Maoist Attacks

In ‘anti-national’ operations (a broad term to cover insurgency, militancy and naxal operations), there will always be setbacks. The ‘anti-national’ would gain success on an odd occasion, while security forces on many more. Such is the nature of operations. Some previous major setbacks and their aftermath need to be assessed, to draw relevant conclusions.

In Apr 2010, in the Dantewada, Chhattisgarh incident, an ambush by the Maoists on a CRPF convoy led to the death of 75 CRPF soldiers. It was possibly the highest casualty figure ever to have occurred in a single incident in India.

It was condoned by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then Home Minister P Chidambaram, and a host of other top leaders. In this case also, the Chhattisgarh police had advance intelligence and had warned the CRPF.

In June the same year, another ambush claimed the lives of 26 CRPF personnel. In April 2017, 25 CRPF personnel were again killed in an ambush in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. An attack on an Army convoy in Manipur in June 2015 resulted in the deaths of 18 soldiers. The Army retaliated by launching a strike on militant camps across the border in Myanmar, destroying those camps from where the militants were launched. The attack on the Army camp in Uri left 19 soldiers dead.

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Intel Failures Existed Pre-Pulwama, So Why The Ruckus Now?

In none of the above cases were there calls for resignations nor demands for the Centre to claim responsibility. In none of these cases was there national mourning demanded and declared. Never were the coffins brought centrally to Delhi and a formal wreath-laying done by the prime minister. Most incidents were ambushes on convoys or road moves, but never was there a demand to stop road travel and shift to the aerial route, which could have been heavy-lift helicopters in these regions. Intelligence failures did exist, but this was not raised.

These incidents did not have political overtones. Lessons were learnt, changes implemented, and operations continued as hither to fore. It was understood that setbacks should be accepted as part of such operations.
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The Politics of Pulwama

Is the Pulwama incident being blown up because Pakistan is involved or because elections are nearing? Are the tears being shed by political parties genuine, or are they to gain additional votes?

Had it been because Pakistan was involved, Uri, Nagrota and Pathankot would have also led to similar demands. If it was the numbers involved, then Dantewada and Sukma should have also had a similar impact.

The fact that none of that happened, indicates that the Pulwama incident has political overtures because elections are drawing close. The BJP is projecting itself as the party to deal firmly with Pakistan.

Other political parties cannot be seen to be far behind, and have begun questioning aspects pertaining to the attack and placing the blame on the government. The entire political game is not to show sympathy with those who laid down their lives, but to draw mileage for electoral reasons. This is the Indian politician, who will even seek votes on the blood of Indian soldiers.

(The author is a retired Army officer based in Lucknow. He can be reached at @kakar_harsha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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