Month on from Pulwama terror attack: From death of 42 CRPF jawans, IAF air strikes in Balakot to Abhinandan's release, a timeline of events

Exactly a month ago on this day, what occurred at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir set off a chain of events, arguments, versions and news bulletins that called to fore the role of every single political participant. The incident and what happened in the following days also trickled in the political discourse ahead of the Lok Sabha Election which is scheduled to begin on 11 April, 2019.

The terror attack in Pulwama killed at least 42 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force, and was followed by several occurrences that are unlikely to be forgotten by anyone in either India or Pakistan soon. Some of these brought back decades old conversations about India-Pakistan hostilities and Article 35A and 370, while others left the average Indian with brand new problems to handle.

The Pulwama attack

Considered the deadliest attack on Jammu and Kashmir since the Valley first witnesses insurgency, Jaish-e-Mohammed recruit Aadil Ahmad Dar's act of driving a truck laden with explosives into a paramilitary convoy, killed a number of jawans and struck the nation dumb on 14 February.

Month on from Pulwama terror attack: From death of 42 CRPF jawans, IAF air strikes in Balakot to Abhinandans release, a timeline of events

Security and Indian Army personnel around the blast site in Kashmir's Pulwama. Reuters

As details emerged of the attack, the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit claimed responsibility for it. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at the Jim Corbett National Park when the attack occurred, registered shock on Twitter a little afterwards, Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi announced they would not rake up this issue in the pre-poll atmosphere.

Pakistan held 'responsible'

The fact that Jaish is an outfit based in Pakistan led India to increase the volume on its allegations against its neighbours. Across television channels, calls to exact revenge rent the primetime air. Pakistan reacted, noting while the terrorist attack was "a matter of grave concern," it strongly rejects Indian media and government's allegations of the country's link to the strike "without" probe.

The White House also asks Pakistan to immediately end "support" and "safe haven" to all terror groups. As several other countries like France, Saudi Arabia, Canada, South Africa, Bangladesh and Bhutan condemned the attack, China declined to back India's appeal to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

Diplomatic offensive

In a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by the prime minister, India decides to diplomatically isolate Pakistan and revoked the "most favoured nation" status granted to it.

On 15 February, India holds a briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including from P5 nations — US, China, Russia, the UK and France — to highlight Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to CRPF jawans who died in the Pulwama attack. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to CRPF jawans who died in the Pulwama attack. PTI

Before the briefing, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale summons Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood to his South Block office and issues a very strong demarche over the attack.

Nationwide funerals

The mortal remains of the slain CRPF jawans are returned to their homes on 16 February, as the nation sees 40 funerals in a single day. An all-party meeting called by the Centre to deliberate upon the situations arising out of the Pulwama attack, sees political differences being laid to rest as parties unanimously pass a resolution to stand with the security forces.

At Maharashtra's Yavatmal, Narendra Modi vows retribution for the armymen, says he has given them full freedom to do as they please for India's security.

Anti-Kashmiri wave

The security cover of six separatist Kashmiri leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi, Fazal Haq Qureshi and Shabir Shah, is withdrawn on 17 February.

Four female paramedical students of Kashmiri-origin are slapped with sedition charges after being suspended from a private institute in Jaipur for allegedly celebrating the Pulwama terror attack by posting "anti-national" messages on an instant messaging app.

Uttarakhand Police issues alerts urging citizens to not believe in "rumours" that 20 Kashmiri students in Dehradun had locked themselves up in their hostel rooms because of a mob attack.

On 18 February, a Kashmiri doctor, who has been living in Kolkata for 22 years, claims that he has been asked to leave the city or face "dire consequences".

A screenshot from the video shared by Twitter user Prashant Kumar, showing the men beating up a Kashmiri man in Lucknow.

A screenshot from the video shared by Twitter user Prashant Kumar, showing the men beating up a Kashmiri man in Lucknow.

On February 22, the Supreme Court issues notices to the central government and 11 states and sought their response on a plea seeking its intervention to prevent alleged threats on Kashmiri students.

The attacks on Kashmiri people continue until 7 March, when men in saffron coloured kurtas beat up Kashmiri vendors in Lucknow. The video went viral on social media, ending in the arrest of all four attackers, including main accused Bajrang Sonkar.

Pulwama encounter

Three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists — including Abdul Rasheed Ghazi alias Kamran, the commander who is believed to have masterminded the attack in Pulwama — are killed in a 17-hour-long encounter with security forces in the Pinglan area of South Kashmir's Pulwama on 18 February. Four army jawans, including a Major-rank officer, also lost their lives in the gunfight, and eight officers, including a Lieutenant Colonel, were injured.

Two of the slain terrorists were identified as Kamran, a Pakistani national, and Hilal Ahmad, a local recruited by the terror group. The identity of the third is being ascertained.

India loses shooting WC berth

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspends all Indian applications to host future events and urges international sports federations not to stage competitions in the country after two Pakistanis are denied visas to compete in New Delhi.

The denial of entry visas for two shooters to take part in the ISSF Shooting World Cup in the capital, that promised 16 Olympic berths across various rifle and pistol events, was a direct offshoot of the Pulwama attack.

Fake news takes over

A tweet claiming a wreckage is an Indian jet. ANI says it is the Pakistani F 16.

A tweet claiming a wreckage is an Indian jet. ANI says it is the Pakistani F 16.

Photos of Ghazi alias Kamran, believed to have masterminded the 14 February attack on the CRPF convoy, are placed on a stock frame of a policeman and circulated widely.

A number of the images and videos circulated in the immediate aftermath of the Balakot air strikes and the dogfight that followed are claimed to be fake, with many pinning the blame for the circulation of fake images on Pakistan.

Videos of IAF pilots in Bengaluru were claimed to have been of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistan, a Pakistani F-16 aircraft was claimed to have been an Indian MiG-21 downed by Pakistan, and a Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer which crashed in 2015 in Odisha's Mayurbhanj also got the same honour.

Where was Modi?

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala says on 22 February, that Modi was shooting for a documentary at Jim Corbett National Park on the afternoon when the Pulwama attack took place. He further says that Modi was at the Ramnagar PWD guest house for tea at 7.10 pm, accounting for four hours of silence on the Pulwama attack at his end.

A day later, a pitched Twitter battle ensues between the BJP and the Congress, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi calling Modi a "prime time minister."  Using the hashtag #PhotoShootSarkar, Rahul highlights how Modi was seemingly oblivious while "there was an ocean of pain in the country's hearts."

Indus Water Treaty

The 1960 water treaty between India and Pakistan, based on which India and Pakistan share the resources of the Indus river is brought to table with Union Minister of Water Resources Nitin Gadkari saying on 21 February that water of three rivers flowing into Pakistan, over which India has full rights under the Indus Water Treaty, will be diverted to Yamuna river.

A report by Reuters said that there are no "displaced trees around the madrasa." But eyewitnesses, as claimed in another report by Reuters, described "four bomb craters and some splintered pine trees (as seen in the photo). Reuters

A report by Reuters said that there are no "displaced trees around the madrasa." But eyewitnesses, as claimed in another report by Reuters, described "four bomb craters and some splintered pine trees (as seen in the photo). Reuters

Pakistan says it is not concerned over India's plan to stop the flow of water to Pakistan from the Ravi, Sutlej and Beas rivers, but admits that it will "definitely express concerns and raise objections strongly" if India uses or diverts waters of the Chenab, Indus and Jhelum rivers.

Balakot air strike 

On 26 February, Indian Air Force sources reveal that as many as 12 Mirage 2000 jets took part in an operation to drop 1,000-kilogram bombs on what were reportedly terrorist launchpads across the Line of Control.

The operation, it is contentiously claimed, allegedly led to the "complete destruction" of the terrorist launchpad in Balakot sector of Pakistan. Indian pilots, it is being reported, have returned to safety, while 200 to 300 people have reportedly died on the Pakistan side.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesperson of the Pakistan army, claims that the attack failed to cause any damage to Pakistan and that India dropped its payload in "haste."

India clarifies that the attack is a "non-military" one. Confusion over whether the attack indeed took place and the extent of the damage caused by it reigns till date.

India Pakistan dogfight

A day after India celebrates the "revenge" it exacted on Pakistan with the Balakot air strike, Pakistan on 27 February claims that its air force has shot down two Indian aircraft and that an Indian pilot was arrested by troops. That pilot, turns out to be the man in the MiG-21 Bison, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The Ministry of External Affairs confirms that a pilot is missing, plunging the nation into silence once again.

Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he is released by Pakistan authorities. PTI

Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he is released by Pakistan authorities. PTI

Amid prayers over the pilot's safe return, videos showing the Indian Air Force man being captured, questioned and transported by the Pakistani Army are shared widely on social media.

Confusion ensues on which aircraft was hit by whom as Pakistan closes its airspace for commercial flights and suspended flight operations across major airports, including in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, for an indefinite period in the wake of the escalating tensions with India.

It is only on 13 March that Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman confirms that the Wing Commander had downed a Pakistani F-16 aircraft, the pilot of which is now dead and whose identity is known to India.

#BringBackAbhinandan

With #BringBackAbhinandan trending and the clauses of the Geneva Convention pertaining to the return of prisoners of war (POW) repeated ad nauseum, India spends a tumultuous 28 February, waiting for the pilot's return. The White House urges "both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation." Tensions rise to such heights that both Indian and Pakistani authorities suspend the Samjhauta Express train service between the two countries.

In a move that was lauded worldwide, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan announces in Parliament that Abhinandan will be freed on 1 March.

Abhinandan returns

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returns home at 9 pm on 1 March, crossing the Wagah-Attari border and significantly lowering the tensions between India and Pakistan.

BCCI asks not to play Pakistan

On 21 February, sfter demands from fans and as a number of cricketers of boycotting the World Cup match against Pakistan that takes place on 16 June at Manchester, the office of BCCI CEO Rahul Johri says it has kept ready a draft addressed to ICC chairman Shashank Manohar seeking a complete ban on Pakistan from the event.

On 22 February, at the end of the Committee of Administrators' meeting in Delhi, no decision is taken on boycotting Pakistan's clash. It announces that there will be no IPL opening ceremony

A file photo of Masood Azhar. AFP

A file photo of Masood Azhar. AFP

this year and the fund allocated for the same will be given to the families of the CRPF personnel who lost their lives in the Pulwama terror attack.

Articles 35A and 370

The clamour to abolish Articles 35A and 370, which grant Jammu and Kashmir special status grows. The Supreme Court says it will start hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the contentious articles. Former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah warn the Centre that any tinkering will trigger political upheaval.

Pakistan boycotts OIC 

Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says on 26 February that he has spoken to his UAE counterpart and "expressed reservations" about the invitation to India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting scheduled at Abu Dhabi from 1 to 2 March. Swaraj addresses the meeting as 'guest of honour' while Pakistan keeps from it.

Masood Azhar "global terrorist"?

In a strong show of international solidarity and support for India, the UN Security Council comprising 15 nations, including China, on 22 February, condemns in the "strongest terms" the "heinous and cowardly" terror attack perpetrated by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama and stresses the need to hold organisers and financiers of such "reprehensible acts" accountable and bring them to justice.

In the aftermath of the de-escalation of tensions, India concentrates its efforts to diplomatically goad Pakistan into taking action against Masood Azhar by focusing on getting him on the "global terrorists" list of the United Nations. France, the US and the UK back India and file a proposal on 27 February. On 14 March, China blocks the effort and puts it on technical hold.

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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2019 13:55:43 IST

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