The Indian Air Force strikes targeting the biggest camp of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant outfit across the border in Balakot was covered by all newspapers in the country on Wednesday.
The strikes reportedly killed a large number of terrorists and trainers on Tuesday but there is no clarity on the toll. The “non-military preemptive action” was taken after receiving credible intelligence that the Jaish-e-Mohammed was planning attacks in India. The operation was the first such air strike claimed by India across the Line of Control since 1971.
The Indian Express ran with the headline “India strikes terror, deep in Pak”. It provided details of the operation that reportedly took town the Jaish training camp, indicating IAF jets entered deep inside Pakistani territory. The newspaper reported on India’s diplomatic outreach as China and the United Kingdom urged restraint, while also mentioning that France and Australia extended support to India’s “preemptive” action in self-defence.
The Times Of India used wordplay to describe the Indian Air Force as “India’s Avenging Force”. The newspaper reported how the 12 Mirage 2000 jets took off from their home base of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh during the “graveyard shift”. The jets were reportedly not moved to a forward base before the strikes to retain the element of surprise in the operation that commenced just after 2 am on Tuesday.
The New Indian Express’s coverage was along similar lines, reporting on the details of the air strikes. Its headline said “India draws new terror red line”.
The Telegraph, known for its bold headlines, said the government should “choose wisely” now that “strike thirst” was met. Reporting from Balakot in Pakistan, the site of the attack, the newspaper quoted villagers saying the strikes had not led to multiple casualties, as claimed by Indian authorities, and had injured just a single person. The newspaper also published both India and Pakistan’s versions of the event.
“As Sneakily As They Came” – The Mumbai Mirror’s headline reflected the detail that the operation carried out by a dozen Mirage 2000 jets had ended in less than two minutes. The newspaper carried a photograph of a Mirage jet dropping bombs, and a column on how the air strikes had helped put Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the driver’s seat ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The Hindustan Times’s headline reflected India’s attack on Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed, which had claimed the February 2014 Pulwama suicide bombing.
“Jets to Jaish: Over and Out”, said The Economic Times. With a graphic on the strike and its impact, the newspaper called the attack “Surgical Strike 2.0.”
The two most prominent newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir – Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir – kept their main headlines factually simple and succinct.
The Navbharat Times inquired, “How is the Jaish? Destroyed, sir”. The newspaper was playing on the famous “How is the josh” dialogue from the movie Uri: The Surgical Strike.
India had totally avenged the Pulwama attack, the Dainik Jagran’s headline said. The newspaper used a few lines from the famous song “Ae mere vatan ke logon”, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, to describe the valour of the armed forces that conducted the strikes.
“Revenge!” said the Maharashtra Times, a sentiment echoed by many that the strikes were a retaliation to the Pulwama attack.
The Malayala Manorama’s front page also went with the retaliation theme, with the lead headline reading: “Settled a Score”. The newspaper listed out the key numbers from the operation, such as 350 terrorists killed and 1,000-kg bombs dropped by the jets. It also carried a map showing the three places targeted by the bombing.
Mathrubhumi also devoted its front page to the strikes. “21 minutes: reduced to a rubble”, read the lead headline. The newspaper also carried statements from PM Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
Tamil newspaper Dina Thanthi also ran with the theme of avenging the Pulwama attack. “India takes its revenge, 350 terrorists killed,” said its main report.
“350 terrorists killed in 1,000-kg bomb raining,” said The Hindu Tamil’s main headline. It added that the aerial strikes had destroyed three Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in 21 minutes.
Dinamani and Dinakaran said India’s war planes entered Pakistan territory and bombed it, killing 350 terrorists in the process.