Paying tributes to the 44 martyred CRPF jawans who were killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama on February 14 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the anniversary of the attack on Friday called them “exceptional individuals” who devoted their lives to serving and protecting the nation.
“Tributes to the brave martyrs who lost their lives in the gruesome Pulwama attack last year. They were exceptional individuals who devoted their lives to serving and protecting our nation. India will never forget their martyrdom,” the prime minister tweeted.
Also paying his tributes to the martyred jawans, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a veiled dig at the BJP which used the Pulwama attack and its retaliatory attack in Balakot as its poll plank for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, asked who benefitted the most from the massacre. He also demanded the status of the probe into the attack and asked who in the BJP government has been held accountable for the security lapse that allowed the attack.
“Today as we remember our 40 CRPF martyrs in the #PulwamaAttack, let us ask: 1. Who benefitted the most from the attack? 2. What is the outcome of the inquiry into the attack? 3. Who in the BJP govt has yet been held accountable for the security lapses that allowed the attack?” he asked on Twitter.
BJP leaders in response, called Gandhi a “known sympathiser” of terror groups LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed, alleging that the Congress leader chose to target not just the government but even the security forces at a time when the nation was paying tributes to those killed in last year’s Pulwama attack.
“When nation is paying homage to martyrs of dastardly Pulwama attack, @RahulGandhi, a known sympathizer of LeT & Jaish-e-Mohammad, chooses to target not just the government but security forces as well. Rahul will never question real culprit, Pakistan. Shame on you Rahul!,” tweeted BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
“This is an insult to martyrs who sacrificed their life for the country. Congress has done this in past as well and people taught them a lesson for this blunder. Rahul Gandhi’s such remarks help Pakistan counter India on international platforms,” tweeted Shahnawaz Hussain.
Related news: Memorial for Pulwama martyrs to be inaugurated on Friday
On February 14 last year, a suicide bomber, driving an explosive-laden vehicle rammed into a bus ferrying 39 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway near Pulwama. It resulted in a gory massacre of 44 CRPF personnel including six outside the bus. The usually pristine highway in no time turned into a war zone with blood, bits of bodies and mangled remains of vehicles strewn around.
The suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, a Jaish-e-Mohammad (which later claimed responsibility for the attack) operative had carried nearly 300 kg of explosives in the vehicle and had driven behind the CRPF convoy unnoticed.
The attack which left the world shell-shocked triggered a string of protests and candlelight marches across the country.
Organisations like the All Indian Cine Workers Association and Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association banned Pakistani actors and artistes from Indian projects.
The Indian government which held Pakistan responsible for the attacks, by allowing terrorist outfits to breed in its territory raised customs duty on all Pakistan goods imported to India to 200 per cent and requested the Financial Action Task Force to blacklist Pakistan.
Balakot- India’s answer to Pulwama
On, February 26, the government claimed it has decimated at least 300 to 350 terrorists and destroyed a militants’ training camp in a surgical strike in Pakistan’s Balakot. The strike was conducted by 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force which crossed the Line of Control to drop bombs in Balakot. Pakistan which announced the strike in the morning of February 26, contesting India’s claims of destroying a terror camp said that the IAF planes instead dropped their payload in an uninhabited wooded hilltop near Balakot.
The BJP which had the 2019 General Elections ahead, chose to use the Balakot airstrike victory in its narrative to stir patriotic feeling among voters and get them on its side. The Balakot narrative was used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in all his campaign speeches. And it worked, bringing the BJP to power for the second term with a thumping majority of 300 plus seats in the 543- member Lok Sabha.
Tributes galore, no headway into case
On the anniversary of the Pulwama attack on Friday (February 14), programmes have been lined up to pay tributes to the martyrs including a wreath-laying ceremony at Lethpora Camp by the CRPF. A memorial is also set to be inaugurated at the camp for the deceased jawans.
However, the culprits for the dastardly attack are yet to be traced. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is yet to trace the source of the explosives used by the suicide bomber. In a report, The Hindu, quoted a senior official who stated that such high-grade “warfare ammunition” would generally be found in military stores.
NIA sources have told the media that the agency has been unable to make headway into the case as its two suspects – Madasir Ahmed Khan and Sajjad Bhat – were killed in an encounter with security forces in March and June last year.
“There are many unanswered questions as all the perpetrators who could have helped in piecing together the investigation were killed in encounters. The car used in the attack had changed hands several times. The last person to own the vehicle- Sajjad Bhat went on to join Jaish hours before he could be caught. He was later killed in an encounter,” The Hindu quoted the official as saying.
The NIA also has been unable to trace the financial trail behind buying the car.
“Had we recovered samples from a bomb that had not exploded, then tracing the source would have been easier on the basis of its composition and usage pattern. In Pulwama, all we could get was charred remains,” the official stating that all that was found from the blast site was “burnt residues”.