The sound of gunfire and bombs rattled the hills around Anantnag, said to be sheltering militants who had killed three officers on Wednesday, as the security forces pounded them on Thursday.
But to some in the country, the noise that grated most was that of celebrations at the BJP headquarters, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was feted on Wednesday for the successful hosting of the G20 Summit, just when the families of the fallen officers were mourning their dead.
Among the critics were some ardent BJP supporters.
“3 officers died in Kashmir & they were posting this xxxx. Hubris has brought down bigger, more successful people than you,” wrote Abhijit Iyer Mitra on X, reacting to the BJP’s post of karyakartas welcoming Modi on Wednesday.
The celebrations were held around the time that Ghulam Hassan Bhat, father of slain deputy superintendent of police Humayun Bhat, was paying homage to his son during a wreath-laying ceremony in Srinagar.
Bhat had died alongside the army’s Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak in a gunfight with militants on Wednesday. Neither the BJP nor Modi had commented on the deaths by late Thursday evening, some 30 hours after the deaths.
“Utterly tone deaf and totally OTT,” Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation, posted about the BJP celebrations.
“The way they were celebrating was extreme cringe. A successful summit doesn’t make anyone a Chakravartin. But who can knock sense and sensibility in their heads?”
Both Mitra and Sareen are routinely seen defending the central government.
The army on Thursday deployed choppers and drones to search for the militants, believed to be hiding amid the thick foliage on the hills.
Around noon, the police said two militants responsible for the killings — including a local man, Uzair Khan — had been encircled.
Loud explosions shook the area throughout the day, but by evening there was no word about any militant casualties.
The army and the police on Thursday officially acknowledged the three deaths, about 24 hours after the officers are believed to have died.
The police said the officers laid down their lives while leading the operation from the front. “Our forces persist with unwavering resolve as they encircle 2 LET terrorists including Uzair Khan,” the police said on X.
The army said its officers had sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in the “highest traditions of the Indian Army”.
Modi remained busy with rallies and the inauguration of projects in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh on Thursday.
Valley politicians expressed condolences over the deaths. They questioned the Centre’s repeated claim that the dilution of Article 370 had brought peace to the Valley.
Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah said there was an encounter every day in one or other part of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Every day, the government cries that militancy has ended. Tell me, has militancy ended?” he said to reporters.
“Fighting brings no peace, talks do. Find out what war has done to Ukraine; it is destroyed. There is no way out.”