New Delhi: In a fresh outrage by Pakistan, two Indian soldiers were beheaded and another injured by a Pakistani ‘border action team’ (BAT) that sneaked into Indian territory under cover of heavy shelling in the Krishna Ghati sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.
The provocation led the two armies to sharply escalate their exchange of fire in several areas along the 778-km Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, worsening the already deep chill in India-Pakistan ties.
India vowed to exact revenge for the “barbaric” mutilation of the bodies during the well-planned BAT raid and ambush conducted over 200 metres inside Indian territory, which came less than 24 hours after Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the LoC on Sunday.
Government sources on Monday said the Indian Army has been given a free hand to respond to the fresh beheading, with defence minister Arun Jaitley holding that the sacrifice of the two Indian men in uniform would not go in vain.
The Army, on its part, promised “appropriate” retribution for the “despicable act”. General Bipin Rawat, incidentally, was in the Kashmir Valley on Monday to review the operational situation along the LoC as well as the counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland.
“While fire assaults are already under way in different sectors of the LoC, the retaliation for Pakistan army’s unsoldierly act in mutilating the bodies will be well-planned and executed at a time and place of our choosing,” said a senior officer.
The incident will mount further pressure, both tactically and politically, on the Narendra Modi government to walk its tough talk on security issues, coming as it does just after the recent massacre of CRPF jawans in Sukma as well as the terror attack on the Panzgam Army camp.
The BAT raid on Monday, during which bodies of Naib Subedar Paramjit Singh (22 Sikh Regiment) and head constable Prem Sagar (200 BSF Battalion) were left mutilated, is the third such macabre episode since the ‘surgical strikes’ against terror launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 29.
India had unleashed “punitive” artillery fire assaults on forward Pakistan army posts after two Indian soldiers were similarly beheaded, with their heads taken back as trophies, in separate BAT raids in the Macchil sector in October-November last year.
Jaitley said, “This is a reprehensible and an inhuman act by our neighbour. Such acts don’t take place even during war, let alone peace. Bodies of soldiers being mutilated is an extreme form of barbarism.”
“The Indian government strongly condemns this act and the whole country has full confidence and faith in our armed forces, which will react appropriately to this inhuman act. The sacrifice of these soldiers will not go in vain,” he added.
With 65 ceasefire violations already being recorded along the LoC since January, the Pakistan Army on Monday once again opened “unprovoked fire” with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and 120mm heavy mortars on two Indian forward posts, Kripan 1 and 2, in Nangi Tekri area of KG sector at about 8.40am.
Three Army and five BSF jawans led by Naib Subedar Paramjit Singh were on a patrol to check and maintain the communication lines between the two posts, which are located ahead of the LoC fence, in the thickly-forested and semi-mountainous terrain at that time.
“The shelling, in which over 45 rounds of RPG were fired at the two posts and the patrol, went on for over 30 minutes,” said an officer. The Pakistani BAT, quietly waiting in the area for some time, launched the ambush when the Indian soldiers took cover amid the heavy shelling.
“They managed to kill the two soldiers and mutilate their bodies before fleeing back in the well-coordinated operation. Another jawan, BSF constable Rajinder Singh, sustained splinter injuries on his left thigh and was evacuated to the Army hospital in Rajouri later,” said an officer.
Pakistani BATs, which typically consists of five to six regular Pakistan Army soldiers as well as some terrorists, are known to carry out such cross-border raids after systematic reconnaissance of vulnerable spots and studying the deployment and patrolling patterns of Indian troops along the LoC. Pakistan army’s elite Special Services Group (SSG) commandos are also often part of the well-planned BAT actions.
The SSG commandos, or the “black storks” as they are called due to their uniform colour, were also among the first batches of intruders that crossed the LoC into Kargil in 1999 to establish fortified positions in the icy heights that finally led to an armed conflict between the two countries.