West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said on Friday that the state will not mark September 29 as “Surgical Strikes Day”. He accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre of trying to “malign and politicise” the Army.
The University Grants Commission told higher education institutions earlier this week to hold programmes and activities to celebrate “Surgical Strikes Day”. The Centre has said it will celebrate on that day the second anniversary of its “surgical strikes” against Pakistan.
“This is an agenda of the BJP and it is trying to push this agenda by using the UGC ahead of elections,” Chatterjee said, according to PTI. “It is a matter of shame that they are using the UGC to achieve their political agenda.”
“We would have understood it had they asked us to observe the day in the name of sacrifices made by our soldiers,” he added. “We have full respect for our soldiers and their sacrifices. The Indian Army has always been kept above politics and controversies. But now we are seeing that the BJP is trying to malign and politicise the Indian Army. This is not right and we won’t support it.”
In a letter to vice chancellors on Wednesday, the UGC suggested that institutions ask students to “pledge their support” to the armed forces through letters and cards, which the government will use for publicity. Colleges and universities may invite ex-servicemen on September 29 to “sensitise students about sacrifices made by the armed forces”, the letter said.
On September 29, 2016, the Indian Army claimed to have carried out “surgical strikes on terror launchpads” across the Line of Control to neutralise alleged infiltrators the previous night. Pakistan denied any such attacks and said India was deliberately using the term “surgical strikes” to describe existing “cross-border fire” operations for “media hype”.
A surgical strike is a military attack aimed to harm only the intended target and ensure minimal collateral damage to general public infrastructure and utilities around it.