Indian Air Force’s “non-military pre-emptive strike” on Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camps in Pakistan’s Balakot on Tuesday morning were greeted with enthusiasm by most of the Indian media. The political cartoons they carried reflected this spectrum of joy, celebration, vindication and chest-thumping too.
Early on Tuesday, Indian Air Force jets struck at a Jaish camp in Balakot, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, the first such air strike claimed by India across the Line of Control since 1971. The military action came 12 days after the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers were killed. The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that the Indian Air Force strike was pre-emptive and based on “credible intelligence” that the Jaish-e-Mohammed had planned terror attacks in “various parts of the country”.
The day after the Air Force action, several questions remain unanswered about the scale and the extent of damage. However, many Indians have viewed the Balakot strike as a decisive response to Pakistan after the Pulwama attack and the sign of a “new India” that fights back when attacked. Mainstream and social media dubbed the attacks as “Surgical Strikes 2”, a sequel to the India Army’s September 29, 2016, action on terrorist camps across the Line of Control. Several cartoons also echoed that sentiment.
Several cartoonists also imagined how the scene must have played out across the border and contended that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the military would have most certainly been running scared.
Other cartoonists proposed a view of what may have gone on in the minds of Jaish terrorists who were attacked. Though the death toll has not been confirmed, the deceased terrorists’ journey to afterlife was a popular theme.
“They’ve sent us here in such large numbers that forget about hoor [a reference to the belief that a deceased Muslim man will meet celestial women in paradise] we haven’t even chanced upon a tomato,” says one such terrorist in this Hindi cartoon.
“How’s the Jaish” emerged as another popular catchphrase, a pun on the dialogue from the movie Uri (2019) about the 2016 surgical strikes.
For some cartoonists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the clear hero of the mission.