How Dainik Jagran manufactured a ‘surgical strike’ by the Indian army in PoK

The report carried prodigious details but the Indian army spokesperson said there was no truth in it.

WrittenBy:Avdhesh Kumar& Nikita Singh
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Hindi daily Dainik Jagran seemed to have the story of the year in its Tuesday morning edition. The headline of its lead story on the front page screamed “Bharat ne Pakistan par fir ki surgical strike”, translating to India unleashes surgical strike again on Pakistan. 

The strap carried prodigious details: About 12-15 Indian army soldiers, on foot, had crossed into Kotli in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir – nearly 2.5 km beyond the Line of Control from Rajouri and Poonch districts on the Indian side. They had attacked a terrorist camp, killed seven to eight terrorists, destroyed four of their launching pads, and returned unscathed.

Bharatiya sena ne ek baar fir dushman ko uske ghar mein ghus kar maara hain…,” began the news report by Gagan Kohli, using colloquial lexicon. It said the Indian army had once again assaulted the enemy at their home, and “this time our bravehearts” had crossed over to Pakistan to “completely destroy four launching pads of active terrorists”.  

These claims read like a story of fabled military warfare. Sadly, it drew a quick denial from the army. The government’s fact-check machinery, PIB Fact Check, also asserted the army’s stance, tweeting, “Yah dawa galat hain.” (This claim is false.)

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Army spokespersons confirmed to Newslaundry that the report is false. Yet the story’s reporter, Gagan Kohli, insists his story is “101 percent correct”. However, the online version of the story has now omitted the phrase “surgical strike” while the rest of the story remains the same.

Dainik Jagran’s claims

Yesterday, the Indian army had said it foiled an infiltration bid when “two terrorists” attempted to cross the LoC in Balakote. The army said it had received “intelligence inputs from multiple agencies and the police”. 

The Dainik Jagran report seems to have taken this information and run with it.

It said the launching pads “destroyed by the army” were being used over the past few days to “device conspiracies” for infiltration, and that the army had executed the “surgical strike” following inputs from intelligence agencies. 

The report helpfully carried a map of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with the Line of Control cutting through it, and an illustration of the alleged assault.      

The report claimed that the 12-15 commandos of the Indian army’s special force had killed seven to eight terrorists, and said the death toll could also include members of “Pakistan's Border Action Team”. “At the same time, our bravehearts have returned unscathed,” it said.   

Jagran said the terrorists had purportedly been devising a conspiracy to attack the districts of Rajouri and Poonch. But even before the “enemy” could execute its “napaak mansube”, loosely translating to nefarious intentions, “the Indian army did not only foil their attempt” but also conveyed the message that “India won’t tolerate terrorist activities around its borders”.   

Isse pehle ki dushman apne napaak mansube ko anjam deta, Bharatiya sena ne surgical strike kar ke na keval pure shadyantra ko viphal kar diya balki saaf sandesh bhi de diya ki Bharat apni sima ke paas atanki gatividhiyon ko nahi panapne dega.”

This followed the publication’s disclaimer that the army has “not confirmed the surgical strike yet”. “Halanki sena ne abhi surgical strike ki pushti nahi ki hain.” It said sources connected to the army had told the newspaper that the “surgical strike was conducted at night”. And Pakistan’s silence on it was a testimony that the country was “scared” and it would deny the attack like in the case of Balakot airstrike and the surgical strike in the aftermath of the Uri attack. “Pakistan will attempt to hide this incident.”

“Abhi tak ispar Pakistan ki chuppi batati hain ki wah kitna dara hua hain. Yakeenan, Uri hamlein ke baad Bharatiya sena ki oor se ki gayi surgical strike aur Pulwama hamlein ke baad vayu sena ki Balakot air strike ki tara iss baar Nakyaal mein hui kaarwayi ko bhi Pakistan chipane ki puri koshish karega.”

In its attempt to back its claims, the report then cited news agency Reuters. It said the Kotli district’s police official Riaz Mughal had told the agency that an Indian army bullet had killed an elderly man working in the fields. This is the Reuters report in question.

Iss beech Samachar agency Reuters ke anusaar, gulaam Jammu and Kashmir ke Kotli jile ke police adhishak Riyaz Mughal ne kaha hain ki Bharatiya sena ki goli baari mein khet mein kaam kar rahe ek buzurg ki maut ho hui hain.”              

Trying to fuel the reader’s imagination, the report said: “Atankiyon aur BAT ke sadasyon ko aankh jhapakne ka bhi mauka nahi mila.” The terrorists and BAT members “did not even get a chance to bat an eyelid, and retaliate, while our bravehearts executed the operation and returned”.  

“Iss surgical strike ko puri tarah safal maana ja raha hain” – the surgical strike was a success, it declared.  

‘No truth in the report’ say army officials, Jagran maintains silence  

Defence spokesperson stationed in Jammu Lt Col Sunil Bartwal told Newslaundry that there was “no truth” in the report. 

“We are issuing a notice to the newspaper, as it neither confirmed it with anyone in Delhi nor did it contact our office in Jammu,” he said. He further said that the army had issued a statement on August 21 that “two terrorists had been killed in Balakote”, which was the “only military operation” that took place on the LoC. 

“All the other newspapers have published this news, but Jagran has given it a new form entirely…I have been calling this reporter since morning but he has switched off his phone,” he said.

The defence official said he will probe the reporter about his sources: “With whom did he confirm this big news? What was their source? Such big news was published in the national edition. Imagine if the Parliament session was going on, there would have been a ruckus. It cannot even be said that Gagan is a novice or a new journalist, he has been in the industry for years. The Jammu bureau head of the newspaper could have contacted me about this news.”

The Indian army's Delhi spokesperson Sudhir Chamoli said the army has issued a notice to Sanjay Gupta, editor-in-chief of Dainik Jagran

“We have told them that you are a well-known newspaper, this situation and this kind of news can even impact national security,” Gupta said. He added that the media outlet was “warned” that if such an incident was repeated, the matter would be escalated to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. “Henceforth, such news should not be run without consent.”

Meanwhile, reporter Gagan Kohli told Newslaundry: “I have written this news on the basis of my sources.”

On the army’s denial, Kohli said he had “all the evidence”, and he would furnish the “photos and videos” if questioned. 

Did he reach out to the authorities in the army or the government to confirm the news? “If they won’t speak, how do I get their quotes?” said Kohli, claiming that his report was “101 percent correct”. “I have been working with Jagran for 23 years, and since then I have been covering terrorism. I am following up the story even today.”

Dainik Jagran’s editor-in-chief Sanjay Gupta and executive editor Vishnu Tripathi both hung up the phone as soon as they were asked about the report. They subsequently did not take our calls. Newslaundry sent them questionnaires about the Jagran report. This story will be updated if they respond.

A questionnaire was also sent to Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.

We should reiterate that Jagran’s story is still on their website, though without the phrase “surgical strike”, and still claiming the news had been confirmed by the newspaper’s sources in the army. However, the media house has delisted its “exclusive” video report on the news on its YouTube channel. 

The newspaper did not carry any corrigendum or follow up news on the “surgical strike” report even on Wednesday, the day after the news was published.

Read this story on Newslaundry Hindi.

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