New Delhi / Islamabad (PTI): India on Tuesday warned Pakistan of an “unequivocal response” to the beheading of its two soldiers on the Indian side of the Line of Control, a charge rejected by Islamabad which sought “actionable evidence” from New Delhi to back its claim.
As the families of slain Naib Subedar Paramjeet Singh and BSF Head Constable Prem Singh bid a tearful farewell to them, anguish and indignation prevailed across the country, plunging the relations between the two nations to a new low and reviving calls for a “befitting reply”.
India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen A K Bhatt spoke to his Pakistani counterpart this morning to express his “grave concern” over the killing and beheading of the two soldiers in the Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.
“The DGMO of the Indian Army conveyed that such a dastardly and inhuman act is beyond any norms of civility and merits unequivocal condemnation and response,” the Indian Army said in a statement.
The DGMO conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart that “full fire” support was provided by the Pakistani Army post located close to where the incident took place.
The army said the DGMO also conveyed India’s concern about the presence of Border Action Team (BAT) training camps in close vicinity of the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
Discussing the issue during the hotline contact between the two DGMOs, the Pakistan Army asked India to produce “actionable evidence” on its claim that a Pakistani special forces team had sneaked across the LoC and beheaded the two Indian security personnel.
“Pakistan rejected India’s allegations of ceasefire violation and mutilation of bodies of Indian soldiers,” the army statement said.
“The Pakistan army is a professional military outfit and upholds the highest standards of conduct. Allegations of mutilation are an Indian attempt to divert the attention of world from situation within the Kashmir valley,” Pakistan DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza claimed.
The denials had little impact at Vainpoin village in Punjab, where 42-year-old Paramjeet Singh was laid to rest with full military honours.
As buglers sounded the “last post” and his body, wrapped in the tricolour, was brought for cremation, his relatives insisted that they be shown the body. Finally, the ceremony went ahead after civil and army officials intervened.
His wife Paramjit Kaur demanded that the Centre give a “free hand” to the army so that Pakistan is taught a lesson.
“Our government had once said that if Pakistan kills or beheads our one soldier, as many as ten enemy soldiers will meet the same fate, but what is happening now? If the government cannot teach Pakistan a lesson, then they should allow me to take revenge of my husband’s killing,” she said.
While “shaheed Paramjeet amar rahe” cries echoed in the air so did slogans “Pakistan murdabad”.
Pakistani flags were also burnt at some places in Punjab, including at Ludhiana, where protesters demanded that Pakistan should be paid back in the same coin.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the beheading issue is understood to have figured. However, there was no official word on it.
Paying tribute to the two soldiers at the New Delhi airport, where the body of Prem Sagar was brought before being taken to his home in Uttar Pradesh, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said, “The nation is with the families of the soldiers who lost their lives in ceasefire violation by the Pakistan army.”
The savage incident also set off a spat between parties across the political divide.
A day after the incident triggered outrage, Congress mounted a scathing assault on the Modi government, asking it to “take off the bangles” and avenge the killing of Indian security personnel. Bangles are considered a sign of femininity.
“It is unfortunate that prime minister and the government do not have any policy on national security…We urge this government to take off its bangles and do something,” Sibal said in New Delhi.
He also attacked the government over the additional charge of defence ministry to finance minister Arun Jaitley, saying there cannot be an effective defence policy without a full-time minister.
Former defence minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony echoed the anguish and told reporters that the army should be given a “free hand” to act against those behind the mutilation of the two soldiers.
After India’s DGMO’s tough talk about a “response” to the brazen slaughter of two soldiers, union minister M Venkaiah Naidu called Pakistan a “rogue” state and spoke of reprisal.
Responding to the opposition’s comments questioning the political will of the government to take military action against Pakistan, Naidu said, “There is will, there is kill.”
“We are very firm, we will do whatever is possible, and the government is already at it, and you will hear about it,” Naidu told journalists in Bengaluru.
“It (the act of mutilation) is condemnable …it is not right to make public statements on what the response should be… the defence minister has made a statement. You will get the information with confirmation on what the result will be,” he said.
The government came under fire also from its old saffron ally Shiv Sena, with its senior leader and Maharashtra minister Ramdas Kadam asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “sit up and think”.
“After one surgical strike by us, they (Pakistan) have killed our soldiers ten times more. The prime minister should sit up and think how to avenge it,” he said in Mumbai.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted the sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers would not go in vain. “The army has vowed to take effective action….we should trust our security forces.”
Amid the political wrangling, Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vora met home minister Rajnath Singh and discussed the situation obtaining in the restive valley as also along the LoC.
Apart from issues like infiltration from across the border, the activities of separatists and violent protests by students, the situation along the LoC after the killing of two soldiers was also discussed.