Locals along LoC reject Indian claim
New Delhi—Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a new video to “prove the surgical strikes” that according to Indian government were conducted by the army across the Line of Control last week.
Pakistan has denied that the strikes took place, and accused India of passing off cross-border firing as raids conducted across the de facto border.
Chief Minister of Delhi has stopped short of asking the government to release footage of the strikes which were conducted on seven terrorist launch pads or staging areas. Claiming that foreign media appears to be backing Pakistan’s claim, he says “my blood boils to see such reports”.
A critic of PM Modi, the 46-year-old Chief Minister stresses in the nearly three-minute-long video, “I may have 100 differences with the PM, but I salute him for his approach towards Pakistan.”
The government has said that it will decide when and if to share evidence of last week’s strikes. Footage and stills were recorded in part through drones, government sources have said.
Villagers in three areas along the LoC between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir said this past week that they had fled their homes in fear after intense shelling and firing from the Indian side but that they did not believe India’s claim Thursday that it had sent armed troops to conduct late-night “surgical strikes” on militant targets there.
In several dozen interviews, residents of the Bhimber, Chamb and Sahmani districts adjoining the Line of Control said they had been jarred from sleep by the barrage of firepower Wednesday. But none said they had seen or heard anything that supported India’s claim that it carried out cross-border strikes on several staging areas for militant groups that left “double digits” of militants dead, a report in Washington Post said on Monday.
Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied India’s claims, saying that Indian troops only fired small arms across the Line of Control, killing two Pakistani soldiers. Tensions between the rival nuclear powers are at the highest level in a decade.
Muhammad Bota, 40, a mason in this hillside village, said that his son woke him up shouting, “India has attacked!” and that the night was filled with noise.
“We are used to routine shelling, but this was unending, with deafening sounds,” he said. “We believed it was the start of war, and I prayed for the safety of my family and recited all the Koran verses I could remember.”
But Bota, like many other residents interviewed, said he did not see any signs of Indian troops attacking or crossing the fortified line less than a mile away.
“All the villagers were up, and we didn’t see any troops from the other side or helicopters,” he said. “India says it killed militants here, but the people who live here know each other for generations. If there were some militants somewhere around, they couldn’t have gone undetected. This is all propaganda of India.”
In Bhimber, a town several miles from the Line of Control, a store salesman named Mehran Younas Sheikh, 31, said that all schools and government offices had been shut down since the intensive firing started and that many people living close to the border had fled to the town.
“It’s a very beautiful area,” Sheikh said of the region’s forested ridges of pine and birch, “but now one feels and witness the silence of death, apart from the crossfiring between the two armies during the night.”
Under domestic pressure to retaliate, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it had conducted a five-hour overnight paramilitary attack on several suspected terrorist camps, killing scores. Pakistan’s military said that it killed eight
Indian soldiers in retaliatory fire and that two of its men had died when India shelled a border post in Sahmani.
In several villages, residents described fleeing quickly from the heavy late-night gunfire, many leaving their livestock and crops. Bashir Papra, 55, said his family decided to leave their home in Chamb because the Indian shelling “was so heavy we felt our whole village would come down.”—Agencies