By: rahul adhikari
August 22 2023
Image source: PRO Defence Jammu, GODL-India, via Wikimedia Commons
After a leading Indian newspaper on Tuesday claimed that the country had conducted an attack on Pakistan in a "surgical strike," the Indian defense ministry told the press that the Indian Army did not carry out any such attack but foiled an alleged infiltration bid by Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC)—a military control line between the two neighboring countries in Jammu and Kashmir.
On Tuesday, one of India's most-circulated Hindi newspapers, Dainik Jagran, published a report claiming that India had carried out a so-called "surgical strike" on Pakistan last week. The report's headline, written in Hindi, read, "India conducts surgical strike on Pakistan again, 12 to 15 commandos carried out the mission; Seven to eight terrorists killed." The report, which was the leading story on the newspaper's front page, said that the Indian Army had crossed the LoC, destroyed four launching pads, and killed eight terrorists in Nayakar, Kotli, on Saturday. The report also claimed that Indian Army personnel went at least two-and-a-half kms inside Pakistani territory near Poonch and Rajouri
Screenshots of the report published by Dainik Jagran in its online and print editions. (Source: Dainik Jagran/X)
India's Ministry of Defense has, however, clarified that an infiltration bid had been foiled and that the incident was not a surgical strike. The Press Information Bureau’s fact-checking outfit, PIB Fact Check, posted a rebuttal on X, stating that Jagran’s story about a surgical strike by the Indian Army in Pakistan was false.
According to a report published by News18 on Tuesday, hours after a report (an indirect reference to the Dainik Jagran story) of an alleged "surgical strike" on Pakistan surfaced, the defense ministry issued a statement clarifying that the Indian Army had not undertaken such an attack. The ministry said in the statement that the Army had foiled an infiltration bid by Pakistan and that the incident was not a surgical strike, the report added.
In a news segment broadcasted on Tuesday, news channel Mirror Now also reported that a statement from an Army source said, "A news has been published with respect to Surgical Strike. I would like to inform you that no such operation has been carried out in Rajouri - Poonch. An Infiltration Bid was foiled yesterday (Monday) for which a press release has been given."
According to a report by The Hindu, Indian forces killed two terrorists and foiled an infiltration attempt near the LoC in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. The operation had been carried out after intelligence inputs from multiple intelligence agencies and Jammu and Kashmir Police suggested an impending attempt by terrorists to cross the LoC in J&K's Balakote sector.
The Hindu cited Jammu-based defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Suneel Bartwal as saying, "In the morning of August 21, two terrorists were detected by alert troops to be making attempts to cross the LoC onto our side making use of inclement weather, dense fog, thick foliage and undulating ground in the Hamirpur area of Balakote Sector. As the terrorists approached our ambush sites, they were challenged and then engaged with effective fire."
The report added that the Army said it recovered an AK-47 rifle with two magazines, 30 rounds, two grenades, and Pak-origin medicines during searches in the area. Two terrorists reportedly managed to return across the LoC but later succumbed to their injuries, the Army further said.
The daily replaced the original story with that of the Indian Army denying the claim on Tuesday evening. This report did not clarify or mention that Jagran was the one who reported on the supposed ‘strike.’ Meanwhile, the reporter on the story, Gagan Kohli, told media outlet Newslaundry that he stands by his story and that it was “101 percent correct.” He claimed that he had “all the evidence,” and would furnish the “photos and videos,” if questioned.
Reacting to the rebuttal from the Indian Army, Jagran English, the English news website run by the Dainik Jagran group, published an article on the defense ministry's denial. However, the report did provide any clarification or mention that Dainik Jagran had initially published the report claiming otherwise.
Even as the defense ministry has refuted the claim, several social media users shared Dainik Jagran's report celebrating the purported "surgical strike." The hashtag 'Surgical Strike' has since been trending in India on X (formerly Twitter).
One user shared a picture of the newspaper's front page carrying the report and wrote on X, "Wow this is big: as reported by @JagranNews , Indian Army did another surgical strike last Saturday. The Indian army entered 2 & half km inside Pakistan, destroyed 4 launching pads & encountered at least 8 terr0rists…”
Sharing a link to Dainik Jagran's report, another account X wrote: "As per this report, Indian Army has conducted surgical strike inside Pakistan & eliminated 8-10 terrorist. Pak all set to hide this to save its face. As per my own assessment, 1 of the most senior terrorist of Jaish has been eliminated yesterday."
Both posts raked in thousands of views on X within a few hours of sharing the Dainik Jagran report.
The Indian Army had carried out "surgical strikes" against terrorist launchpads in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on September 28, 2016. The operation, which became a topic of political debate, was undertaken in response to an attack by Pakistan-based terrorists on an army base in Kashmir's Uri, which left 19 soldiers dead.
(Update: The story has been updated to reflect that Dainik Jagran has updated the story on the 'surgical strike' with that of the Indian Army denying it.)