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Mudda panel debates ways and means to boost army’s flagging morale after officer’s father files petition in court seeking quashing of FIR against him and latest terrorist attack kills soldier in Sunjuwan camp

An army officer’s father has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court asking that the FIR filed by the Jammu & Kashmir police against his son be quashed as he had been “wrongly and arbitrarily” named in it. And on Saturday morning, two terrorists entered the Sunjuwan army camp in Jammu and Kashmir and opened fire, killing a soldier and injuring six others, including civilians.

Saturday’s Mudda took up the issue of boosting the flagging morale of the army amid such a backdrop. Participants included BJP spokesperson Anand Sahoo, Congress spokesperson Omkarnath Singh, defence experts Col Girish Mendiratta, Major General Shashi Asthana and Col Danveer Singh, all retired, and journalist Govind Pant Raju.

“A change of policy has come about. Instead of just Jammu & Kashmir, we now talk about Balochistan and PoK. We hold the upper hand when it comes to talks with Pakistan. We have also started documenting infiltrations, ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks,” said Sahoo.

Col Singh observed that the enemy inflicts substantial damage at little cost. “We, on the other hand, spend crores neutralising it. We need to increase the cost of warfare for them,” he advised.

“Why can’t we begin proxy wars and low-intensity conflicts in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan?” said Col Mendiratta.

Col Singh had an answer to that question. “Earlier on, RAW had a Pakistan desk. We had thousands of informants and personnel working on it. Prime Minister IK Gujral ended it in one stroke. The informants were caught, many of them put to death. The incumbent government has started it again but you can’t expect results in four years,” he replied.

Omkarnath Singh began by paying his respects to those martyred in the latest incident. “Let the government take some step to instill faith in the people of the valley and fear in the hearts of militants. We should take a firm step and give a fitting reply to Pakistan,” he thundered.

Sahoo asserted that administratively, politically and diplomatically, the government has already done so. “Infiltration, too, has come down. The US, too, is changing its policy towards Pakistan. Unlike in the past, the US envoys now come to India first and then go to Pakistan,” he said.

Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9 and JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat’s death anniversary falls on Feb 11. Every year, during this period, terrorists perpetrate strikes, kill soldiers and their families; while Pakistan engages in ceasefire violations. The army is forced into a state of alert. Taking these things lying down hurts the morale of the people and the soldiers, said Raju.

Sahoo assured him that things were on the right track, the one rank one pension scheme had been implemented and “only three districts are left for combing”.

Col Mendiratta then said, “Lone cried out on the floor of the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, ‘Pakistan zindabad’. What has your government done in this regard? Have they arrested Sajjad Lone?”

Maj Gen Asthana, who is a gallantry awardee owing to his contributions during the Kargil war, pointed out that this year, the defence budget has been the lowest since 1992.

The Congress spokesperson said, “Statistics tell their own story. During the 44 months of NDA rule at the centre, there have been 204 major incidents of terrorism, while during the corresponding period of UPA rule, there were only 89. In the same period, the number of soldiers killed was 112 during UPA rule, and 278 during NDA rule. Seventy-one civilians died during UPA rule, during NDA rule, this number is 135. There were 462 ceasefire violations during the UPA’s tenure, during the NDA’s tenure, this number is at 2,384.”

Col Mendiratta came out with a plan. “The LoC is an imaginary line. We should disregard it. We should cross the LoC and start hitting them where it hurts the most. We should stop being reactive and enter the proactive mode. We should begin proxy wars in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. During Kargil war, we had a policy. It was called substantive retaliation. We must again bring it to the forefront,” he said.

People are the centre of gravity for any counter-insurgency operations. Five percent of the people have been forming negative opinions about the country and helping terrorists. We must reach out to them and win them to our side, Maj Gen Asthana added.

—Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta

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