In a ‘Media Clarification’ issued on Thursday, the Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Defence, Srinagar, says:
1. Please refer to the news article “Runway grandmother sparked savage skirmish on LoC” by Praveen Swami, published in The Hindu on January 10, 2013. Certain aspects mentioned in the article are factually incorrect.
2. First, as per the article, 70-year-old Reshma Bi had crossed the Line of Control on 26 September, 2011. Therefore, the recent cease fire violations cannot be linked to an incident 16 months old.
3. As mentioned in the article, no announcements were made by the Pakistan Army over a public address system at Uri demanding a halt to any construction work.
4. GOC 19 Inf Div. Maj Gen G.S. Rawat is not the General Officer Commanding of 19 Inf Div, Maj Gen Khandare is the GOC, 19 Inf Div now.
5. Also it is denied that any permission was ever sought by the GOC for aggressive action against any Pakistani post. No LC transgression has been resorted to by the Indian army in Uri Sector on 06 Jan 13, as alleged.
6. Pakistan has carried out cease fire violations on night 05/06 Jan and controlled retaliation was carried out by own side on January 6, 2013.
Praveen Swami replies:
I indeed erred in designating Brigadier G.S. Rawat as the head of the 19 Infantry Division; he was in fact the Brigade Commander of the 161 Brigade in Uri, which is part of the 19 Infantry Division. The error is regretted.
However, the rest of the Defence Ministry clarification makes little sense. It states that “as per the article, 70-year-old Reshma Bi had crossed the Line of Control on 26 September, 2011.” There is no such claim in the article. It in fact states that she crossed the Line of Control on September 11, 2012. That means there were barely six weeks between her departure and the firing, not sixteen months.
Secondly, the Defence Ministry disputes that the Pakistan Army made announcements over its public address system asking India to cease the bunker construction that followed. However, it does not dispute that it began constructing bunkers — the bone of contention which led to the clash.
Finally, it states that The Hindu charged it with staging a cross-border raid on January 6, 2013. The Hindu story made no such claim: it merely states that Pakistan alleges that Indian troops staged such a raid, along with India’s denial of this allegation.
Thus, the Defence Ministry denial concedes all key elements of The Hindu’s article — i.e., that India constructed bunkers around Charonda, which provoked a Pakistani response, leading to a clash in which Pakistani soldiers were killed, and Indian soldiers were killed in retaliation.
Interestingly, the Defence Ministry does not deny other elements of the story, such as the suggestion that both sides have engaged in cross border raids, which have on occasion included beheadings.