The centre on Tuesday was said to be weighing its options in the face of mounting demands for a strong response to Pakistan over the mutilation of two soldiers’ bodies on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir even as a top Indian Army officer asserted that the incident merited a “response”.
Emotions ran high as the bodies of the Army’s Naib Subedar Paramjeet Singh and the BSF’s Head Constable Prem Sagar reached their home towns — Tarn Taran in Punjab and Deoria in Uttar Pradesh — for the last rites.
The families and relatives and those gathered to pay their homage demanded revenge against Pakistan for mutilating the bodies after killing the two in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district on Monday.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the morning and the situation arising out of the beheading of the soldiers came up for discussion. There was no official word on what transpired but sources believe that the government’s response in the current situation could have been among the points of discussion.
The anger over the killings and decapitation was reflected in the statement of a slain soldier’s daughter, who demanded “50 Pakistani heads” in revenge for her father’s killing, a sentiment that was echoed in both the funerals.
Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the sacrifices of the soldiers would not go in vain but did not elaborate. However, he said everyone should speak in one voice on the issue.
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But Pakistan continued to be in denial mode as Director General Military Operations Lt. Gen. A.K. Bhatt spoke over hotline with his Pakistani counterpart and expressed “grave concern” over the mutilation.
The DGMO told the Pakistani military commander that “full fire support” was provided by a Pakistani military post to the killers.
“DGMO Indian Army conveyed that such dastardly and inhuman act is beyond any norm of civility and merits unequivocal condemnation and response,” an army statement said.
Lt. Gen. Bhatt also expressed concern over the presence of training camps of the Border Action Team (BAT), made up of Pakistani military and the terrorists it trains, close to the LoC.
On his part, the Pakistani official said there was no ceasefire violation from their side nor was there mutilation of Indian soldiers, a statement from the Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations said.
Meanwhile, there was political sparring with the Congress launching a strident attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Senior leader and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony said there have been at least three incidents of mutilation of Indian soldiers since the BJP-led NDA came to power in May 2014 while there was only one during the 10-year Congress-led UPA rule.
“During my time, eight years, there was only one incident of mutilation. During the NDA government’s time, there have been three incidents of mutilation. Moreover, these incidents have shattered the morale of Indian people, Indian Army.”
Antony also said the continuous attacks on military installations have put a question mark over the security structure on the border.
“My only request to the government is to give freedom to the Army to take appropriate action at an appropriate time as a reaction to this cowardly, inhuman, barbaric action by the Pakistan (army),” Antony said.
His colleague and former HRD Minister Kapil Sibal also needled the government by recalling what BJP leader Smriti Irani had said at the time of the beheading incident during the UPA rule.
“During the UPA government, a woman MP (Irani) had then asked if bangles should be sent to Manmohan Singh. That MP, who is now a minister, will she send bangles to Narendra Modi,” he asked at a party briefing.
“What kind of a Prime Minister and what kind of a government is this when it knows that Pakistan will not mend its ways. They call the ISI to Pathankot. They go to Pakistan to spend someone’s birthday when that country has nothing but hate for India. The PM should understand that he should have no expectations from Pakistan and there is no need for hugs and celebrating birthdays.”
Sibal said Modi was spending more time in election campaigning than thinking about the country’s borders.
“So, remove your bangles and show what you can do,” Sibal told Irani.
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi said statements by Modi in the past over Pakistan have turned out to be an albatross around his neck.