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‘Sexing’ up, army style

New Delhi, July 11: Soon after the operations in Iraq, the Indian Army top brass, impressed with the new lexicon of the US’ war, announced that it had carried out a major operation in Kashmir and had destroyed militant camps south of Pir Panjal by achieving “shock and awe”.

The army’s offensive, code-named Operation Sarp Vinash, was carried out primarily by the Rashtriya Rifles’ Romeo Force in Hill Kaka, south of the Pir Panjal range near Surankote.

It is now emerging that the army has learnt not only a new lexicon from the US and the UK, but a whole new art of “sexing up” — blowing out of proportion — its activity. Like the British security establishment, which is alleged to have doctored intelligence estimates of Saddam Hussein’s strike potential with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to justify its involvement in the war, the army in Kashmir made claims about Operation Sarp Vinash that its own accounts do not bear out.

Fresh documents released by the army sources this week give the lie to the claims. On May 23, the army top brass flew correspondents from New Delhi to an outpost near Surankote, where Major General Hardev Lidder claimed that 62 militants were killed during the operation. The correspondents had no way to cross-check the army’s claims during the guided tour.

Subsequently, on May 29, the Director General of Military Intelligence, Lt Gen. Richard Khare, claimed during a briefing in New Delhi that 65 were killed.

In documents and statistics released this week in the form of a “background factsheet”, the army’s figures are shown to be suspect. Maj. Gen. Lidder, who was commanding officer for Operation Sarp Vinash, had said the offensive was from April 20 to May 18 but it involved elaborate planning, including building three helipads between 10,000 and 11,000 feet to establish a firm base, before “shock and awe” could be achieved.

The “background factsheet”, shows that between April 20 and May 18 — the duration of Operation Sarp Vinash — 30 were killed. Yet, on May 23, the army was claiming that 62 militants were killed and two soldiers died.

The factsheet also shows that 15 militants were killed before April 20 and 20 killed after May 18 in Hill Kaka and the “fringe areas”. The factsheet shows that the last of the encounters in Sarp Vinash was on June 14-15 — nearly three weeks after the correspondents were told that 62 militants were killed.

In the last encounter, in a “fringe area” called Hari Safeda, 10 militants are said to have been killed. This took the toll in the operation to 65. If the figures released this week are true, there is no way the army could have claimed on May 23 that 62 militants were killed.

The discrepancy and self-contradiction in the army’s own version of events raises several questions. First, how long did the operation actually last'

Second, how could the army claim on May 23 that 62 militants were killed and yet claim this week that 65 were killed of which 35 were killed before or after the operation'

Last, and dangerously, was the army cooking up or making “kills” just to back up its claims'

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