India’s BJP Calls for Counter Attack after Kashmir Ambush

Amin Masoodi and Adeel Shah
2016.06.27
Srinagar and New Delhi
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160627-IN-kashmir-attack-620.jpg An Indian paramilitary member adjusts the national flag covering the coffin of a colleague killed in an ambush near Srinagar in India-administered Kashmir, June 26, 2016.
AFP

Jagtar Singh, a member of an elite Indian police unit, was due to come home to his family on July 2 after serving seven years in the volatile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He arrived a week earlier but in an Indian flag-draped coffin.

Singh, a constable in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), was one of eight members of his unit killed Saturday when militants ambushed a police bus in Pampore, about 14 km (8.6 miles) from Srinagar.

The 45-year-old Singh hailed from north-western Punjab state.

“We are filled with pride ... very proud of him,” his brother, Pavitar, told BenarNews by phone. “He offered his life for the nation while fighting those who have been disrupting peace and spreading violence. He was always willing to sacrifice himself for his country.

“He was totally committed to his duties and never feared death. Just as Jagtar would not have regretted sacrificing his life, we have no complaints, even though we believe the attack resulted from a major security lapse,” Pavitar added.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, CRPF Director General K. Durga Prasad acknowledged that his force had received prior information about Saturday’s attack, one of the deadliest in the Kashmir region in recent years.

A day after the assault, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant outfit based in Pakistan, claimed it had carried out the attack that also injured 22 CRPF members, Prasad said.

Both Pakistan and India have territorial claims over Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region in the Himalayas where an anti-Indian separatist insurgency has unfolded since the late 1980s, killing more than 70,000 people.

“Pampore probe details show that a white car with four terrorists attacked the CRPF bus. Out of the injured, five of our personnel are in critical condition; one of them is very serious,” Prasad said.

200-plus rounds fired

The bus carrying 40 CRPF personnel was part of a fleet returning from a firing exercise in nearby Awantipore town, Prasad said, adding that two of the four attackers were killed in retaliatory firing that lasted about 20 minutes.

The two other suspects are believed to be on the run and a manhunt is on for them, police said, while conceding they had not identified the attackers.

“It looks like more than 200 rounds were fired by the terrorists. We also have intercepts of our own which indicate that security forces were going to be targeted,” he said.

The attackers, he said, appear to have chosen the ambush spot because vehicles have to slow because of a sharp curve.

Retaliation against Pakistan?

A day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who belongs the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hinted at a retaliatory attack, party members on Monday disrupted a Kashmir state legislative assembly session, demanding airstrikes on alleged militant training camps in Pakistan.

“We will make sure not to fire the first bullet, but even if one bullet is fired from their side, we shouldn’t even think about keeping a count of the bullets that we’ll fire,” the home minister said Sunday.

The two nations have had strained relationships since the Indian sub-continent was partitioned in 1947, with both sides routinely accusing each other of ceasefire violations and pushing cross-border militant activities.

“Pakistani-backed militants are attacking our soldiers every now and then. Now it is time – India should carry out airstrikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan. We should not accept more sacrifices from our soldiers,” BJP legislative member Ravinder Raina told the assembly to loud cheers from his colleagues.

“The Indian military and air force should enter areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where militants are hiding,” he said, as members of the All India National Congress, BJP’s principal opposition party, joined in the anti-Pakistan chorus.

Elsewhere, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit refused to comment on the attack, telling reporters: “I have already said what I think about the relationship between India and Pakistan. Today, we are celebrating iftar. Let’s have iftar party and enjoy ourselves.”

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