Living up to its reputation of being a newspaper in relentless pursuit of special stories, The Indian Express on Wednesday put out an exclusive news report corroborating the Indian Army’s claim of having conducted surgical strikes in the territory of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. In this piece, exchange4media explains five major points emerging out of IE’s story on surgical strikes.
IE claims access to PoK
Before The Indian Express published its exclusive on surgical strikes, no Indian media outlet had managed to gain access to the territory of PoK where the alleged surgical strikes were conducted. However, if The Indian Express is to be believed, that has changed now.
“But now using people actually living on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, who we contacted through their friends and relatives living on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir, we have been able to bring a graphic account of what actually happened in the early hours of Thursday,” said Praveen Swami, Editor, Strategic Affairs, in a video clip posted on TheIndianExpress.com.
Exhibiting that technology is indeed a great enabler, IE utilised a “commercially available encrypted chat system” to send a set of questions to eyewitnesses in PoK and record their responses.
The story authored by Praveen Swami is premised on the testimony of five eyewitnesses. “Eyewitnesses living across the Line of Control (LoC) have provided The Indian Express with graphic account of last week’s Indian Army Special Forces strikes on jihadists’ staging posts, describing how bodies of those killed in clashes before dawn on September 29 were loaded onto trucks for secret burials,” it mentioned.
But the newspaper’s report did not disclose the names of the eyewitnesses. “The eyewitnesses’ identities are being withheld for their safety at the request of their families,” it said. Considering the fact that the sources have not been named, Doubting Thomases are expected to continue raising questions regarding the veracity of the claims.
Intelligence documents not published
Besides eyewitness accounts, The Indian Express also claimed access to certain documents of the Intelligence Bureau to substantiate the claims made by the Indian establishment. “From classified intelligence documents accessed by The Indian Express, it appears the assault caught the Lashkar and other jihadist groups by surprise,” the story stated.
While the newspaper did give quite an exhaustive account of the assault mounted by the Indian forces on the terror launch pads, it chose to not publish the documents that it had claimed access to. Thereby, it once again left enough room for suspicion.
Not many terrorists neutralised
Based on the unpublished intelligence reports and unnamed eyewitness accounts, The Indian Express suggested that the damage done to the supposed terror launch pads may not have been as big as it was initially claimed.
The newspaper wrote, “Eyewitness accounts, as well as intelligence records obtained by The Indian Express, suggest that fatalities in the raids may have been lower than the 38-50 killed attributed to Indian officials in reports, including in this newspaper, and have caused little damage to jihadist logistics and infrastructure.”
This piece of information, though damaging towards the Indian claims, does give the story a sense of credibility as it considerably deviates from the official government narrative on the issue. Thus, suggesting that it may not have been worked around a government plant after all.
Social media buzz
Express’ report is most unlikely to settle the debate once and for all. On one hand, the report may have strengthened the belief of those who have expressed confidence in the strikes since the proclamation by Indian Army DGMO Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh.
On the other hand, however, scepticism still reigns supreme for others since IE has refrained from putting the clinching evidence in the form of eyewitness identities and intelligence documents in the public domain. The latter are sure to press for the release of video footage of the strikes to lay the subject matter to rest. But there is little doubt that the report did stir up with a huge debate on social media with the hashtag #ExpressProvesStrikes generating over 2000 tweets till 5 PM on Wednesday.