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NEW DELHI: Days after the Indian government claimed its troops carried out surgical strikes by crossing the Line of Control to hunt terrorists in Azad Kashmir, Indian opposition parties on Tuesday asked for proof.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal chose a novel way to press the question. He leaned on Pakistan’s shoulder to shoot off a query to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he should give a stinging rejoinder to Islamabad’s persistent denial of any such strike.

Senior Congress leaders said variously there were doubts in the public mind, not the least because of Pakistan’s denial, and sought clarification with proof that strikes did in fact take place.

The government has responded by accusing the questioners of insulting India’s ‘valiant soldiers’.

Govt responds by accusing doubters of insulting armed forces

“Mr Kejriwal, in a rare gesture, on Monday ‘saluted’ his bête noire (Mr Modi) for the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the LoC and urged the Centre to counter Pakistan’s smear campaign on the international stage,” one report said.

Mr Kejriwal, in a video message, admitted that he might have differences with Mr Modi over several issues, but by undertaking the surgical strikes, Mr Modi had shown the will to deal with Pakistan.

Mr Kejriwal’s party is believed to be surging ahead in Punjab and Goa, where state polls are due shortly. And he doesn’t want to lose the nationalist constituency.

“Last week our army showed valour and avenged the deaths of 19 soldiers killed in the Uri attack. I may have differences with the prime minister over a 100 issues. But when he has shown the will (to deal with this matter), I salute him,” he said.

Mr Kejriwal persisted with his argument for proof. “Since the last two days, Pakistan is taking international journalists to the border and trying to show that surgical strikes never took place. Two days back, the United Nations gave a statement that there was no such activity on the border,” he said.

“My blood boiled over these news reports (of the international media). Pakistan is indulging in smearing India’s image at the international level. I appeal to the prime minister that the way he and the army taught Pakistan a lesson on ground, he should also unmask the propaganda by Pakistan at international level. The whole country is with you. I also appeal to the countrymen not to believe in the false campaign by Pakistan,” he added.

Mr Modi’s cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said Mr Kejriwal’s comments were an insult to the army.

Mr Kejriwal said he was surprised that his praise for the army was misconstrued.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh noted that the UNMOGIP observers had reported not seeing any such attack when they were on duty on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It’s time the government unmasks Pakistan’s false propaganda by revealing and making public the evidences,” said Congress spokesman R.S. Surjewala.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on a visit to held Kashmir, dismissed queries about doubts being raised on the government’s claim of a cross-border reprisal.

“I have not read any such statement. Desh ke bache, bache ko sena par bharosa hai aur garv hai, aur rahega (the entire nation has faith in our armed forces and is proud of them and it will remain so),” he told reporters.

“Our government will not allow anyone to dent the country’s honour and prestige at any cost. We will ensure that the country’s head is always held high,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2016