Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien on Saturday accused Bharatiya Janata Party ministers of “leaking exaggerated numbers” to the media about the casualties in the Indian Air Force’s strikes across the Line of Control on Tuesday. He wondered whether any statistics given by the government can be taken seriously.
On Tuesday, India had claimed to have struck the biggest camp of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad in Balakot, Pakistan, and said the operation eliminated a “very large number” of terrorists and trainers. India called it a “non-military preemptive action”.
Multiple media reports, quoting unidentified officials, had pegged the number of casualties at over 300, and some estimated it at even 600. The Indian Air Force has refused to give any number officially, and said it would be premature to give an estimate. The Air Force said the weapons had hit the intended target and caused the intended damage.
On Thursday, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee demanded that the Centre share details about the air strikes. She asked for the number of casualties. The Bharatiya Janata Party criticised Banerjee for questioning the air strikes.
On Saturday, O’Brien said on Twitter: “IAF has been very consistent with its no number claim. So why did a BJP mantri [minister] or two leak exaggerated numbers? And Delhi media fell for the numbers. Can one take any statistics this government gives out seriously?”
O’Brien questioned the authenticity of the media’s reporting by questioning reportage attributing numbers of casualties to “sources”. “Journalists? Or slaves to propaganda aka sources?” he tweeted along with screenshots of TV news reports giving various numbers of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists killed in the strike.
O’Brien also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of playing “divisive politics”.
“Look who has the gall to talk about ‘vote bank politics’!” O’Brien said. “Amit Shah and the BJP are the nastiest proponents of divisive and hatred politics. We will not listen to his lectures on patriotism. Our armed forces belong to India, not to Modi-Shah-BJP.”
The Trinamool Congress was among the Opposition parties that expressed displeasure about the Centre’s “blatant politicisation of the sacrifices made by Armed Forces”.