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Abhinandan Varthaman

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman (born 21 June 1983) is an Indian officer in the Indian Air Force and a MiG-21 Bison pilot.[1][2] He received widespread media recognition for becoming a prisoner of war held captive in Pakistan during 2019 India-Pakistan Stand off.

Early life and career
He was born on 21 June 1983 to Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman in Tamil Nadu, India.[3] His mother is a doctor.[3] He was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in 2004 as a fighter pilot.[3]

On 27 February 2019, He flew with his plane MIG-21 and chased Pakistan's fighter plane F-16, which he shot down[4] in aerial engagement but he crossed into Pakistan territory and was shot down by Pakistan Air Force. Later, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that an Indian pilot is missing in action after a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane was lost while engaging with Pakistani jets after they violated Indian airspace during the 2019 India–Pakistan standoff.

On 28 February 2019, Pakistan announced to release him on 1 March 2019 via Wahgah border as a Peace Gesture.[6] Indian PM Modi welcomed the release of Abhinandan, suggesting that the whole country is proud of him, at a political rally in his homestate.

2019 Pulwama attack

On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at Lethpora (near Awantipora) in the Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The attack resulted in the deaths of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)[a] personnel and the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. The attacker was Adil Ahmad Dar, a local from Indian-administered Kashmir, and a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed.[1][2][3] India blamed Pakistan for the attack. Pakistan condemned the attack and denied any connection to it.

Further information: Kashmir conflict and Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism
Kashmir is a disputed territory, claimed both by India and Pakistan with both countries administering part of the territory.[5] Pakistan has sought to gain control of Indian-administered Kashmir.[6][7] An insurgency began to proliferate in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s, for which Pakistan provided material support.[8][9] Since 1989, about 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the Indian crackdown.[10][5] According to Time, unrest in Kashmir grew in 2016 after India killed a popular rebel leader Burhan Wani.[5] A rising number of young locals from Indian administered Kashmir have joined the militancy.[11][12] According to Jane's Information Group, most militants in Kashmir are now "homegrown" and not from Pakistan.[13] In 2018 alone, the death toll included 260 militants, 160 civilians and 150 government forces.[10]

Since 2015, Pakistan-based militants in Kashmir have increasingly taken to high-profile suicide attacks against the Indian security forces. In July 2015, three gunmen attacked a bus, and police station in Gurdaspur. Early in 2016, four to six gunmen attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station.[14] In February and June 2016, the militants killed nine and eight security personnel respectively in Pampore. In September 2016, four assailants attacked an Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri killing 19 soldiers. On 31 December 2017, the Commando Training Centre at Lethpora was also attacked by militants killing five security personnel. These attacks took place in the vicinity of the Jammu Srinagar National Highway.[2]

Personnel killed[1][15][16][17][18]
Uttar Pradesh12
West Bengal2
Tamil Nadu2
Jammu and Kashmir1
Himachal Pradesh1
Madhya Pradesh1
On 14 February 2019, a convoy of 78 vehicles transporting more than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)[a] personnel from Jammu to Srinagar was travelling on National Highway 44. The convoy had left Jammu around 03:30 IST and was carrying a large number of personnel due to the highway having been shut down for two days prior. The convoy was scheduled to reach its destination before sunset.[2]

At Lethpora near Awantipora, around 15:15 IST,[20] a bus carrying security personnel was rammed by a car carrying explosives. It caused a blast which killed 40 CRPF personnel of the 76th Battalion and injured many others. The injured were moved to the army base hospital in Srinagar.[1]

Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. They also released a video of the assailant Adil Ahmad Dar, a 22-year old from Kakapora who had joined the group a year earlier.[21][2][22] Dar's family had last seen him in March 2018, when he left his house on a bicycle one day and never returned.[23] Pakistan denied any involvement, though Jaish-e-Mohammed's leader, Masood Azhar, is known to operate in the country.[24][25]

It is the deadliest terror attack on India's state security personnel in Kashmir since 1989.[20]

The perpetrator was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar (alias Adil Ahmad Gaadi Takranewala or Waqas Commando), a 22-year old from Kakapora.[26] According to Dar's parents, Dar became radicalized after he was beated by Indian police.[27][28] Between September 2016 and March 2018, Adil Dar was reported arrested six times by Indian authorities.[29][30] However, each time he was released without any charges.[29]

The National Investigation Agency dispatched a 12-member team to probe the attack, working with the Jammu and Kashmir Police.[1][2]

Initial investigations suggested the car was carrying more than 300 kilograms (660 lb) of explosives,[2] including 80 kilograms (180 lb) of RDX, a high explosive,[31] and ammonium nitrate.[32] Lt Gen Hooda said that the explosives might have been stolen from a construction site. He initially said that it was not possible that they were smuggled from across the border, but later said that he could not rule it out.[33]


Candle light march organised in Mehsana, Gujarat
State funerals of security personnel killed in the attack were held in their respective native places.[34][35] The government of Punjab announced ex gratia compensation of ₹12 lakh (US$17,000) each to the families of the killed security personnel from the state and a government job to the next of kin.[17] India revoked Pakistan's most favoured nation status.[1] The customs duty on all Pakistani goods imported to India were raised to 200%.[36] The government of India urged the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) to put Pakistan in the blacklist. The FATF decided to keep it on 'grey list' and gave time till October 2019 to comply with 27 conditions laid in June 2018 when it was put on the 'grey list'. Failing comply, it will be added in the blacklist.[37] On 17 February, the state administration revoked security provisions for separatist leaders.[38]

Protests bandhs and candle light marches were held across India.[39][40][41] There were violent protests in Jammu resulting in a curfew being imposed starting 14 February. The Indian community in the United Kingdom held protests outside the Pakistan High Commission in London.[42] A delegation of Indian doctors cancelled their visit to Pakistan for the 13th Association of Anaesthesiologists Congress, organised by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, in Lahore on 7 March.[42] Indian broadcaster DSport said it would no longer broadcast Pakistan Super League cricket matches.[43] The All Indian Cine Workers Association announced a ban on Pakistani actors and artists in the Indian film industry, and stated that strong action would be taken on any organisation violating it.[44] The Indian Film and Television Directors' Association also announced a ban on Pakistani artists in films and music produced in India; the president of the organisation threatened to "vandalise" the sets of any Indian film production with Pakistani artists.[45]

On 20 February 2019, Pakistani prisoner Shakarullah, who was serving a life term in India's Jaipur Central Jail under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was stabbed and beaten to death by four other inmates.[46][47] India claimed that Shakarullah was allegedly killed in a brawl among the inmates over television volume. Pakistan claimed that he was killed in retaliation of the Pulwama incident.[48]

Gunfight with the militants
Following intelligence inputs, in the early morning hours of 18 February, a joint team comprising 55 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and Special Operations Group of India killed two terrorists and two supporters in an anti-terrorism encounter operation in the ensuing manhunt for the perpetrators in Pulwama. One of them, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi alias Kamran, was identified as a Pakistani national and was considered the mastermind of the attack and a commander of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM).[49] In addition, local JeM recruit Hilal Ahmed, along with two sympathisers who housed Ghazi and Ahmed to evade capture, were also shot dead in the encounter. Four security personnel were killed in the gunfight.[50][51][52]

Anti-Kashmiri backlash
Kashmiri students living in other parts of India faced a backlash after the attack, including violence and harassment,[53] and eviction from their homes.[54] In response, many Indians offered to house Kashmiris who may have been evicted.[55]

It was reported that number of Kashmiris fleeing from the rest of India had reached "hundreds".[56] Jammu and Kashmir Students Organisation reported that 97% of Kashmiri students in Dehradun had been evacuated.[57] Two Indian colleges in Dehradhun announced that no new Kashmiri students will receive admission.[58] One of those colleges, Alpine College, suspended its dean, who is a Kashmiri, after some groups called for him to be fired.[59]

Tathagata Roy, the governor of the Indian state Meghalaya, tweeted support for a boycott of "everything Kashmiri". Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad disagreed with this view.[60] A Kashmiri merchant was beaten in Kolkata; the attack was condemned by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.[61]

Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh said they had asked affected states to protect students."[62] Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah met with Rajnath Singh seeking assistance.[63]

India-Pakistan conflict
Balakot airstrike
Main article: 2019 Balakot airstrike
On 26 February, twelve Mirage 2000 jets of the Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control and dropped bombs into Balakot, Pakistan.[64][65] India claimed that it attacked a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp and killed a large number of terrorists, reported to be between 300 and 350.[64][66] Pakistan claimed that they quickly scrambled jets to intercept the IAF jets, who dropped their payloads to quickly return over the Line of Control.[67]

India-Pakistan military confrontation
Main article: 2019 India-Pakistan standoff
India and Pakistan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the victims and their families. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured that a strong response will be given to the terror attack.[2] India blamed Pakistan for the attack.[68] BBC News has said that the involvement of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the bombing "directly links" Pakistan to the attack, while also pointing out that Jaish-e-Mohammed had attacked Pakistani military targets in the past.[69] It is widely accepted among security analysts that Jaish-e-Mohammed is the creation of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.[70] Pakistan banned the group in 2002,[71] but it has resurfaced under different names and retains ISI's support.[72][73][74] The New York Times questioned the nature of the link to Pakistan, pointing out that the bomber came from Indian-administered Kashmir and the explosives may also have been locally procured.[75]

The Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley has said that India would completely isolate Pakistan in the diplomatic community.[36]

Pakistan denied the allegation of a link to the attack,[76] and Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the bombing.[4] Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's federal information minister, said that Pakistan was taking action against Jaish-e-Muhammad and that Pakistan would be able to assist India in taking action against terrorist groups.[77] The Nation, a Pakistani newspaper, called the assailant a "freedom fighter" who eliminated members of an "occupying force".[78][79] Pakistan and India both recalled their ambassadors to each other for "consultations" in a tit-for-tat move.[80]

On 19 February 2019, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said that providing safe haven to terrorists was not in Pakistan's interest.[81] He asked for proof of Pakistani involvement and warned India that any military response would be met with retaliation. Indian Ministry of External Affairs responded by criticising him for not condemning the attack and not offering any condolences for the victims. It said that claims by Adil Ahmad Dar and Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed was sufficient proof. It said that promises of investigation was unconvincing due to a lack of progress in Mumbai and Pathankot attack investigations.[82][83] In response to Indian criticism, the newspaper Dawn pointed out that Pakistani foreign minister Qureshi had expressed sympathies with the victims soon after the attack.[84]

Following the attack on the Indian territory, the producers of the Indian Hindi films including Notebook, Kabir Singh and Satellite Shankar decided not to release them in Pakistan.[85][86][87]

International community
The United States condemned the attack and added it would work with India in counterterrorism efforts; it singled out Pakistan for its alleged role in the attack.[88] It urged Pakistan to cooperate with the investigation and punish those responsible.[89] Pakistan said it was ready to cooperate with such an investigation.[90] A statement from the US Department of State noted that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack and asked all countries to refrain from supporting terrorists.[91] Bangladesh, Bhutan, France,[92] Hungary,[93] Israel,[94] Maldives,[92] Nepal,[95] Russia,[92] Singapore,[96] Sri Lanka,[97][98] Turkey,[99] and the United Arab Emirates[100] condemned the attack, as did the United Nations Secretary-General.[101]

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi met with India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and referring to both the 2019 Pulwama attack and the 2019 Khash–Zahedan suicide bombing, he stated that Iran and India would work together to prevent future attacks.

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