NEW DELHI: In their bid to falsify the claims of Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have finally conducted a surgical strike on the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the history of transborder overt and covert operations carried out by the brave officers and jawans of the Indian armed forces, dragging the uniform into the cesspool of dirty political slugfests.
Officers and jawans associated with the surgical strikes in the past, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speeches and the Defence Ministry in its RTI reply have actually said never happened, must be wondering if the country will now ever acknowledge their contribution.
A highly angry Major General A J B Jaini (Retd) seethed with rage on national television after he was told about claims that no surgical strike ever happened before the Modi regime. "I have personally been part of two surgical strikes. First was on December 7-8, 1971, at least 7 to 8 kilometres inside Pakistan in the Poonch sector where an Ordinance Dump was located,” he said, and boiled over with anger.
"Zoom karo…zoom karo
,” he shouted, asking the television crew to zoom in on his phone on which was the picture of one Major Khan. "Yeh hai Major Khan, mera Company Commander…zoom karo…jin ko Vir Chakra mila tha…14 Grenadier…Baat karte hain, pehle nahi huya tha, pehle nahi huya tha
"Bakwaas band honi chahiye iss desh mein,” he cried at the top of his voice, and then narrated another surgical strike when he was DGS Operations in Nagaland, fighting the NSCN’s infamous 6th Gang.
"I was the planner, coordinator. I did surgical strikes because they would enter from a neighbouring country…Kya mein jhooth bol raha hun?”
When the Prime Minister of a country has to comb through files and rummage in drawers and storage rooms to find if India conducted a surgical strike against Pakistan in the past, it merely underlines that we need a more efficient clerk who is conversant with record-keeping.
Next time, before planning a surgical strike, India needs to recruit a better clerk who can keep all the records methodically and furnish more truthful and credible RTI replies.
The leaders of a responsible nuclear power, whether incumbent or those who called the shots during yesteryears, squabbling over facts like conducting surgical strikes against another nuclear power is no more mere hilarious or ridiculous. It is stupidity. That it hurts those who put their lives on the line, or made the supreme sacrifice, is all the more painful.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now said the army chiefs in charge at the time have said they do not have any information on such strikes.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had claimed the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had indeed carried out surgical strikes. Manmohan Singh does not have much of a record of being a habitual liar.
Modi has been claiming credit for a surgical strike across the Line of Control after the Uri terror attack in 2016, and an air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp at Balakot in Pakistan after the Pulwama attack in which 42 CRPF jawans died.
Lt General (retd) DS Hooda, who was the mastermind behind the Modi-era surgical strike, has said the Indian army had indeed conducted similar surgical strikes against terrorists across the LoC during the UPA rule too. He also advised against politicising military operations, saying it will cause "long-term damage" to the armed forces.
Congress has claimed that at least six cross-border strikes were conducted between 2004 and 2014.
The BJP claims that September 29, 2016, was the first time a surgical strike ever happened.
Now the Director General, Military Operations, has jumped into the arena, claiming in an RTI response that there is no record of any surgical strikes before the September 29, 2016 one.
With the latest stance, the Modi regime has now negated the claims of the earlier NDA also that any surgical strikes were carried out when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the helm.
Interestingly, former Union Minister Arun Shourie, who was a member of the Vajpayee cabinet, has claimed "personal knowledge" that the Indian army conducted a surgical strike 14 kilometres inside Pakistan during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime.
He said the Indian Army jawans killed 10-15 persons and even brought seven bodies from across the border into India.
"But we kept quiet and it has never been talked about," Shourie told Shekhar Gupta during an interview under Gupta's "Off the Cuff" programme, telecast by NDTV.
Castigating the government for the hype created around surgical strike against Pakistan, Arun Shourie, narrated the incident that ostensibly happened during the Vajpayee years but did not say where exactly had the strike happened.
"I am telling you this from absolutely personal knowledge. I can't reveal his (the person who planned the strike) name...they (the Pakistanis) had done something evil (and) to teach them a lesson, a raid was planned 14 km inside Pakistan. They killed everybody there (at the forward post of Pakistan), probably about 10-15 persons and lugged seven bodies back across the border into India," Shourie said.
If PM Modi has indeed checked all the records of the past surgical strikes, then it is not clear if he deliberately chose not to mention this particular strike or if it actually did not figure in the records.
Former Defence Minister P Chidambaram also said the UPA government had decided not to make public the fact of cross-border raids.
Arun Shourie even said the Indian army jawans brought with them "as a trophy" the guest book of the forward post of Pakistan that they destroyed.
"It so happened that (Pakistan President Pervez) Musharraff had visited the forward post 10 days before this raid and had written in the guest book –
"What a good job you people are doing, keep it up". The guest book is now lying at one of the regimental headquarters," Shourie said.
Shourie also advised the powers that be to focus on capacity building and carry out the urgent steps as per the recommendations of the Naresh Chandra committee report instead of indulging in hyper talk.
Click to see video: Arun Shourie on Vajpayee era surgical strike
With the latest revelations of the Defence Ministry claiming in an RTI reply that there are no records of any surgical strikes conducted prior to the 2016 surgical strikes, the actions undertaken by the Vajpayee government, as claimed by Shourie, have also come under doubt.
In its reply, the Defence Ministry, through Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), has said it only has data about a single strike conducted by the Army along the LoC on September 29, 2016.
Next time, before planning a surgical strike, India needs to recruit a better clerk who can keep all the records methodically and furnish more truthful and credible RTI replies. Who knows the country might find no record if it really vivisected Pakistan into two in 1971?
In the end, it all depends on the clerk.