Uri commander’s forceful retaliation led to beheadings?

The Union Ministry of Home has received inputs that suggest that Indian Army units in the Uri sector could have provoked the incident.

Updated: Jan 10, 2013, 09:54 AM IST

New Delhi: As New Delhi raged over the attack by Pakistani troops claiming the lives of two Indian soldiers on Indian soil, and the mutilation of the bodies, the Union Ministry of Home has received inputs that suggest that Indian Army units in the Uri sector could have provoked the incident. While there was sporadic firing exchanged in some parts of the LoC, a cross-border raid by the ghatak (commando) platoon of the 9th Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) in the early hours of Sunday could have been the provocation.

Top sources in the Union Home and defence ministries said that the Pakistani attack was in all likelihood a retaliation for the attack carried out by 9 MLI.

The Commander of the 161 Brigade, stationed in the Churchunda sub-sector, Brigadier Gulab Singh Rawat, had decided to take a very aggressive posture. Sources said that he asked the commanding officer of 9 MLI to take “proactive action”, to launch a quick raid against a post that was harassing Indian positions.

The successful Indian raid led to the death of a Pakistani non-commissioned officer and escalated tensions across the LoC.

Normally, such an escalation leads to the issuing of a formal alert from the Udhampur-based North Command of the army to all its formations. This alert should have gone out to all the three corps that it commands — the Nagrota (Jammu) based 16 Corps, the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and the Leh-based 14 Corps.

Of these, 14 and 15 Corps are the most active as they man the LoC from Jammu right through to Kargil, from where 14 Corps takes over.

Incidentally, the neighbouring 12 Brigade in Uri had just seen a change of command after Brig RK Singh took over from Brig BS Raju. Any change of command of a major formation on the LoC is a sensitive time and troops are expected to be on high alert. The absence of the alert led to all the formations running things as business as usual. That was when the Pakistanis decided to retaliate in the Mendhar sector that is part of the northern Jammu region.

This area is manned by the 25th Division of the Indian Army and 13 Rajputana Rifles was one of the battalions manning this sector.

While Army headquarters believes that the attack was carried out by men from the Baloch regiment, it has not ruled out the role of a team of the Special Service Group (SSG) which is part of the elite Pakistani Special Forces. Reports suggest that the attacking party was dressed in black dungarees usually preferred by the SSG.

Another intelligence input suggests that this could have been an attack carried out by irregulars from the LeT after its chief, Hafeez Saeed started raising “Border Action Guards” to attack Indian troop positions on the LoC. Indian intelligence experts have ruled out the attack as a major shift in policy on part of the Pakistani General Headquarters (GHC) in Rawalpindi.

“We believe that this was a local action purely in retaliation of what the raid our troops carried out in the Uri sector,” a senior intelligence official said. The Union Home Ministry is also looking at the role played by Brig Rawat and whether his “aggressive posture” could have been avoided.

There is a feeling in the government that Brig Rawat has a very “aggressive track record” which could have escalated tensions on the LoC at a time when the nine-year-old ceasefire was holding up well. An inquiry into the incident has been ordered by Army Headquarters and a decision on Brig Rawat could also be taken in the coming days.