The Pulwama attack was worst such assault on Indian forces in decades and forced India's hand to conduct a retaliatory strike against JeM training camp in Pakistan's Balakot

New Delhi: A year has passed since a 20-year-old suicide bomber from Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killing 40 Jawans on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

The attack was the worst assault on Indian forces in decades. After India’s request to Pakistan to act against the JeM, the headquarters and training facilities of which are located there failed, New Delhi decided to act on its own accord. On February 26, 2019, India decided to conduct retaliatory strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot which housed a JeM training facility. 

Pulwama Attack – What Happened 

On the afternoon of February 14 last year, an SUV-laden with 350-kg high-grade explosive hit 78-vehicle convoy ferrying 2500 CRPF personnel on the Srinagar- Jammu highway bringing India and Pakistan on the brink of war.

The Jaish bomber was later identified as one Adil Ahmed Dar who turned to militancy after being beaten by army troops three years ago, his parents told Reuters. His family members describe him as a “shy and introvert” person who seethed immense anger against the Indian forces and spent most of his time praying and browsing the internet.

The attacker hailed from Lethipora village of Pulwama in the Anantnag district of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state. His father Ghulam Hassan Dar reportedly said his son was radicalised after the police stopped him and a few of his friends on the way to school in 2016. 

"They were stopped by the troops and beaten up and harassed," Dar said, adding that the students were accused of stone-pelting. "Since then, he wanted to join the militants," his father told Reuters. 

His parents only got to know about the involvement of their son in a terror attack through police. 

Balakot Attack: Operation Bandar

The retaliatory strikes in Pakistan’s hinterland by Indian Air Force sent a stern message to both the perpetrators of terror and the Indian people that New Delhi is ready to respond to any transgressions. 

Two weeks after Balakot attack, Indian Air Force’s warplanes took off from different airbases in the wee hours of February 26 and crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K targeting the JeM camp in Balakot with Spice 2000 guided missiles. 

The Indian missiles hit five separate structures along a ridge-line to the west of the town of Bisian near Balakot. 

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched a retaliatory strike on India the very next day. In the ensuing dogfight, an IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 was shot down and he was captured in Pakistan. However, he was released after India’s diplomatic outreach and intervention by major world powers. 

In the details of the attack that emerged later it was revealed that operation to attack JeM terrorist training Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was code named 'Operation Bandar'. 

India in an official statement called the strikes “intelligence-led, non-military, preemptive" operation instead of knee jerk reaction to Pulwama. 

The attack occurred just ahead of local body elections in the state and well ahead of Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April later that year. 

Pulwama Aftermath

There are some uneasy questions the answers to which have still not been found out. The National Investigative Agency (NIA) has still not been able to track the source of high-grade explosives that were used by JeM attacker to target CRPF convoy. 

The NIA has also not been able to file any charge-sheet yet as all three attackers who planned, coordinated and executed the attack have either been dead or neutralised. 

Two other suspects Mudasir Ahmed Khan and Sajjad Bhat were killed in an encounter by the security forces last year.

JeM claimed responsibility for the attack in a video and identified the attacker as the 20-year-old Dar. In the video, the attacker is seen sitting with a sophisticated weapon and he says “I will be in heaven by the time you see this video”.

The government will inaugurate a memorial in the honour of those killed in Pulwama attack at Lethpora camp on Friday.

The names of all 40 personnel along with their pictures will be a part of the memorial.