Arun Shourie discussed with ThePrint an operation conducted under PM Vajpayee that he described as much bigger than the one in 2016

New Delhi: The Indian Army’s surgical strikes of 28-29 September, 2016, were not the country’s first, but they remain the only such operation openly acknowledged by the government, and that too in the immediate aftermath.

This fact has opened the Narendra Modi administration up to allegations of using a crucial security operation to bolster its image, with critics pointing out how preceding governments kept far bigger cross-border strikes under wraps in the larger public interest.

Former union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Arun Shourie told ThePrint that one such strike took place under the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which was led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Speaking to ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta at Off the Cuff in July last year, Shourie had said the strike involved soldiers trooping over 14 kilometres inside the Pakistan border to target a post, compared to the two-three kilometres Army men covered in 2016 to destroy multiple terror launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Bringing Back A Trophy

“I will tell you something from absolutely personal knowledge,” he said.

“This time it is said we went in two kilometres. In that particular incident – it happened during Atalji’s time – they had done something evil on the Indian side. To teach them a lesson a raid was planned which was about 14 km inside Pakistan,” Shourie added.

He said the Indian team even brought back bodies and documents from the raid. “They killed everybody there, probably about 10-15 people, and they lugged seven bodies back across the border into India,” Shourie said.

A guest book brought back from the post, he claimed, revealed that former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had visited it just a few days before the raid.

“As a trophy, they also brought the guest book of that particular post. It is lying in one of the regimental headquarters today,” Shourie said. “And it so happened that 10 days before, Musharraf had come to the post and said what a good job you are doing, keep it up.”

The former minister cited the incident as he made a point against what he called “rising rhetoric”, saying that the operation conducted during NDA-I was never spoken about.

Saturday marks the second anniversary of the surgical strikes that were carried out 11 days after terrorists attacked an Indian Army camp in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir, and killed 19 soldiers.

Even as Pakistan denied them, several world powers had rallied in support of India at the time. Earlier this year, a leaked video of the operation had triggered a fresh round of political mudslinging on the surgical strikes.

According to the order issued by the Central government, the 10,967 SPOs who have been working for less than five years will now be paid an honorarium of Rs 6,000 per month, while the 10,623 personnel with a service ranging from five to 15 years will be paid Rs 9,000 per month. The 8,411 SPOs who have completed 15 years will get Rs 12,000 per month.

Threatened To Resign

Over the last 10 days, more than three dozen SPOs in J&K have put in their papers after Pakistan-backed militant group Hizbul Mujahideen threatened them to “resign or die”. The Hizbul diktat also called for the SPOs to make their resignations public by putting out videos on social media.

The resignations came after three SPOs were kidnapped and killed last week. This attack came on the heels of several others where the SPOs, who are locals, and their families were specifically targeted by militants as “informers”.

Worried about the ripple effect of the resignation videos, the state government even blocked internet services in several parts of the Valley.

Sources in the state administration said former director general of police SP Vaid, who was unceremoniously removed from his post weeks after the imposition of governor’s rule in the state, had taken up the issue of pay revision as well as the need to absorb them as regular policemen in a time-bound manner, on several occasions.