Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has stirred a massive row by hugging a man in Pakistan who is believed to be a villain in India: Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chief of Army Staff of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Sidhu is in Pakistan to attend the swearing-in ceremony of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who has now become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with much help from the Army led by Bajwa.

Sidhu currently serves as the Minister of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, and Museums of the State of Punjab, where the Indian National Congress is the ruling party. Once in Pakistan, Sidhu won hearts of natives with his shairi (poetry), praising Imran Khan but putting the Congress in a spot. He also had to skip the cremation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whom he had once described as his ‘political godfather’, leaving many in the BJP, his former party, fuming.

Also read: Imran Khan is sworn in as Pakistan PM; Navjot Singh Sidhu attends oath ceremony

But it was the hug that, probably, has hurt the sentiments of thousands in the armed forces and their families in India. India this year has lost at least 25 of its brave men so far to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism or direct shelling from the Pakistani side, with their Army led by Bajwa. Eleven of them were martyred in just 37 days this year. In January alone, seven soldiers of the Indian Army were killed along the Line of Control (LoC).

In 2017, according to government data, 29 Indian soldiers had died while manning the LoC. Interestingly, 22 of them were killed in the last six months of the previous year when tension increased between India and Pakistan that manifested in the border areas.

Pakistan troops indulged in 860 incidents of ceasefire violations in 2017 alone. Many of them wounded civilians in the border areas of Jammu, often wounding children. Some injuries led to loss of limbs too and forced evacuation of villages, even in peace time.

Needless to add, the force that inflicted such wounds is led by Qamar Javed Bajwa. Many of our brave hearts were stabbed on the back; they came back wrapped in the tricolour. Hundreds were widowed; thousands lost their fathers, with some even in their mothers’ wombs. Bajwa has blood on his hands. What message does Navjot Singh Sidhu want to convey when he hugs Qamar Javed Bajwa?

Sidhhu has an angry constituency, upset family members of the Indian Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives, a shocked BJP and a Congress that is finding tough to defend him, waiting for his return. Above all, the nation, in its silence, will have many questions to ask the Congress leader who hugged India’s Villain No 1.