NEW DELHI: A controversy erupted on Friday after the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a circular asking universities to celebrate September 29 as 'Surgical Strike Day', with the Congress calling the move politically motivated and the government countering it by saying the exercise will enhance national prestige.
A decision to celebrate the day was announced on Thursday when the UGC in a letter to all Vice Chancellors had asked them to observe the day in their institutions through special parades by National Cadet Corps, and with a pledge of support by students to the armed forces by writing letters and cards.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal called the decision a 'jumla' (gimmick) and in an oblique reference termed the demonetisation also a surgical strike on the country's poor.
"UGC directs VCs of all universities to celebrate September 29 as Surgical Strike Day. Is this meant to educate or to serve BJP's political ends? Will UGC dare celebrate November 8 as Surgical Strike Day depriving the poor of their livelihood? This is another jumla!," Sibal tweeted on Friday.
Sibal was not the only one to disapprove of the decision. The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also suggested that instead of celebrating the surgical strikes, the government should better be visiting family of Narender Singh, the BSF soldier who was killed after coming under unprovoked fire from Pakistan on Wednesday along Jammu border.
"The best way to celebrate surgical strike would be for the PM to visit the family of Narender Singh, who was tortured to death by Pakistan this week.
"PM should assure the nation that Pakistan would be given such befitting reply that it won't dare do it again," Kejriwal tweeted.
Congeress's student wing NSUI criticised the decision a "government propaganda" and "militarisation of university space".
"This is not celebration of Army valour but government propaganda. At the same time, the increasing militarisation of the university space is specially worrisome," it said in a statement.
Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar replied to the charges saying that there was no politics behind the decision and that it is only meant to enhance the prestige of the nation.
"This is only meant to increase the prestige of the Army. There is no politics in it. I must denounce the Congress charge that we are politicising the surgical strike. No, we are not doing that," Javadekar said.
"We are telling the students how the armed forces defend our country, how they conducted the surgical strike on September 29, 2016, and how they also perform civilian duties whenever necessary," he added.