Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday asserted that he was filled with grief and outrage, just like the people of the country, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Kashmir which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.
The Prime Minister, who launched a number of development projects in Bihar, began his speech with a few lines in the local dialect 'Angika' before paying tributes to two of the martyred jawans who hailed from the state.
"I salute and pay my tributes to Sanjay Kumar Sinha and Ratan Kumar Thakur," the Prime Minister said.
The two martyred CRPF personnel hailed from Patna and Bhagalpur districts respectively.
"To the large number of people who have gathered here, I would like to say the fire that is raging within you is in my heart as well," Modi said, evoking a thunderous response from the crowd.
Modi's government, which faces a national election in the coming months, has adopted an aggressive posture in Kashmir and shelved dialogue with Pakistan after accusing the previous government of being soft on militants.
It withdrew trade privileges for Pakistan and imposed a 200 percent customs duty on all imports from its neighbour within hours of Thursday's attack.
More street protests were held across India yesterday. Protesters in New Delhi burned effigies of Pakistani and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leaders while attacks on Kashmiris were reported in different cities.
23 MEN DETAINED
Indian forces have detained 23 men suspected of links to the Pakistan-based militant group that masterminded the bombing, a top police official said yesterday.
The 23 men included members and sympathisers of Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Representatives of India's National Investigating Agency (NIA) questioned the suspects about the bombing, two security officials said.
"They are trying to reach out to the top commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammad, including its Kashmir Chief," one of the sources said.
Mohammed Umair, the commander of the Jaish in Kashmir who is believed to have plotted the attack, is suspected to be hiding in the region where the attacks took place, the officials said.
They also said Umair had "radicalised and motivated" the Kashmiri school dropout who rammed a car laden with explosives into the convoy, reported Reuters.
Umair is thought to have entered Indian Kashmir from Pakistan in September to head the Jaish in the region. Security forces suspect he is in hiding in southern Kashmir, according to the officials, who could not be named as a matter of policy.
Indian officials say Umair is a nephew of the chief of the Jaish, Masood Azhar, who is believed to be in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Indian authorities withdrew police protection for five separatist leaders in Kashmir, reported our New Delhi correspondent.
Indian officials said police protection had been withdrawn for Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and four other leaders.
"We have decided to withdraw the security of separatist leaders in the wake of the attack on security forces," home affairs ministry spokesman A Bharat Bhushan Babu said.
Babu said the decision followed a call by the government for a review of security for those "taking money from Pakistan."
Perhaps fearing surgical strikes, Pakistan has relocated terrorists at launch pads along the Line of Control to army camps that are usually in close proximity to such facilities.
With the Modi government stating that armed forces have been authorised to respond to the JeM attack on the CRPF convoy, the Pakistan army seems to have taken some pre-emptive measures. Though there is tension on both sides, there is no artillery movement or any other deployment along the frontiers, top intelligence sources in Kashmir told TOI.
“As of today, we don't have any targets to strike at across the Line of Control, where terrorists used to be ready to be launched to infiltrate into this side,” sources said.
This could leave the Indian Army with the option of targeting Pakistan army installations and could mean possible escalation of the conflict, a senior official said.
Intelligence sources said the assessment that Pakistan was anticipating action -- perhaps in response to terror attacks -- was made by the fact that Pakistan did not vacate its winter posts along the frontiers this year.
“At least 50 to 60 winter posts which would be vacated every year remain occupied as of now. With additional reinforcements from the terror launch pads, we don't know what the strength of their posts is as of today,” sources said.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua yesterday apprised envoys from Africa and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states on Islamabad's position on the recent deadly attack targeting Indian security forces in Kashmir, and New Delhi's "knee-jerk" reaction blaming Pakistan and threatening it, reported Dawn online.
Janjua "recalled a familiar pattern of India blaming Pakistan instantly after such incidents without any investigation", the Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted.