On Sunday morning, the Valley woke up to the deadliest militant attack it has witnessed in recent years. Militants attacked an Indian Army brigade headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) Uri near the Line of Control (LoC), killing 17 soldiers and injuring at least 35.
According to the Army, four fidayeen (militant suicide fighters) broke into the base via the rear office of the infantry battalion in Baramulla district’s Uri in the wee hours. The militants entered the base at around 4 am and stationed themselves in the administrative area of the base. The ensuing gun battle lasted for more than eight hours, resulting in heavy casualties on the Indian side. “The four militants who attacked the base have been killed. However, the operation is yet to be declared over,” army officials told local journalists. Helicopters were deployed to evacuate the injured soldiers.
At around 12.10pm, the Northern Command issued this statement: “On the early hours of 18 September 2016, a group of heavily armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of a unit at Uri, Kashmir. In the counter action, four terrorists have been eliminated and combing operations are in progress. The administrative base had large strength of troops of units turning over their tour of duty who were stationed in tents/temporary shelters which caught fire and resulted in heavy casualties. We salute the sacrifice of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation.”
In the wake of the attack, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has cancelled his trips to Russia and the United States. He conducted a high-level meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, and top Army and paramilitary officials. After the meeting, Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar briefed Prime Minister Modi, who tweeted, “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.”
The last big attack in Uri took place on December 6, 2014, during the assembly elections. Eight army men, including a Lt Colonel, three policemen, and all six militants were killed in the gun battle that lasted around six hours. Sunday’s attack comes at a time when the Valley has been witnessing unrest for over two months. At least 78 have been killed and thousands injured in violent protests that erupted after the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani.
Those following the developments in Kashmir feel it is a calculated provocation from across the border to provoke India in the run-up to United Nations General Assembly session. “Pakistan seems to want New Delhi to respond in kind. And should that happen, Kashmir will become the centre of global attention amid the UN session. The clash between nuclear-armed neighbours will alarm the world, making a case for global intervention, which Pakistan desperately wants”, a Kashmir-based journalist told Newlaundry.
The journalist feels India is in a fix. “By adopting a muscular approach towards Pakistan, and rallying its support base around it, the Modi government has left itself no other honourable option but to retaliate in kind. But if it does, it is going to run into a well laid-out trap of Pakistan. And if it doesn’t, people will blame it for taking the attack lying down,” he added.
(With inputs from Riyaz-ur-Rehman)