In a significant development the New Delhi has eventually accepted the demand of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and directed its troops in Kashmir not to hold the anti militancy operations. Mehbooba had urged for the ceasefire in Kashmir in view of Ramdhan and Amarnath Yatra after convening an All Party Meet in Srinagar to seek an end to the this ongoing bloodshed.
“The Centre asks Security Forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment,” Home Ministry said on Twitter.
In a series of tweets, it said that home minister Rajnath Singh has informed the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of the Centre’s decision.
“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties,” it said.
The centre, however, ask its troops to have “right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
Earlier the All Party meet was attended by all the mainstream political parties and a consensus was developed that centre should announce ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of Ramdhan and Amarnath Yatra.
After a long meeting attended by all mainstream parties, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said: “The consensus of all was that we should appeal to the Government of India to consider, on the eve of Ramadan and Amarnath Yatra, the unilateral ceasefire. The way (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee did a unilateral ceasefire during his tenure in past so the Government of India should think on those lines so that people get relief.”
BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta on her side, Chief Minister further said: “Crackdowns are happening, encounters are happening and search operations are happening, people are facing a lot of hardships. And now it is the month of Ramadan and the Amarnath Yatra is starting, we should make efforts to take steps that restore the confidence of people here”.
However, the suspension of operations was accepted even only hours later, BJP leadership in Jammu declared that it’s not possible to announce ceasefire in the state under present circumstances and negated the views of the chief minister and the deputy chief minister
Since the beginning of this year, there seems to be no letup in the encounters and operations and civilian killings. Some parts of south Kashmir have virtually turned into battle grounds where even civilians are now losing their lives in an attempt to save the trapped militants during cordon and search operation. In the last few months though forces have managed to kill many militants including some top commanders, however what is worrying is that many youths have joined militant ranks despite knowing that they could lose their lives within months of joining militancy.
Last week, an assistant professor Dr Mohammad Rafi from Ganderbal who had earned doctorate in sociology was killed within 30 hours after joining the militant ranks in Shopian in south Kashmir along with four other militants including top Hizb commander, Saddam Padder.
If official sources are to believed then since January this year more than 40 youths have joined militant ranks. The trend of youths joining militant ranks that started with the killing of Hizb commander, Burhan Wani seems to continue. This trend is now very disturbing for the top security officials and the government.
Even days after the J&K parties called for the ceasefire – Army chief General Bipin Rawaat in an exclusive interview to The Indian Express said that who will guarantee that forces or political workers will not be targeted or attacked if ceasefire is announced in J&K.
Rawat also expressed concern over Kashmiri youth “picking up the gun” and said that “those who tell them (that) this path will bring Azadi are misleading them,” Gen Rawat further said: “I want to tell Kashmiri youth that Azadi isn’t possible. It won’t happen. Don’t get carried away unnecessarily. Why are you picking up weapons? We will always fight those who seek Azadi, those who want to secede. (Azadi) is not going to happen, never”.
On swelling militant ranks General Rawat said that he doesn’t attach much importance to the number of militants who are killed in encounters with the Army. “These numbers don’t matter to me because I know this cycle will continue. There are fresh recruitments happening. I only want to stress that all this is futile; nothing is going to be achieved by them. You can’t fight the Army”. He said that the Burhan Wani encounter wasn’t the first such encounter in Kashmir. “I am still trying to understand where did all that anger come from. The youth have gotten themselves in Pakistan’s trap. They are being consistently incited to attack us”.
Though Chief Minister while chairing the meeting of Unified High Command headquarters stressed upon the security and intelligence agencies to synchronize their efforts and actions on the ground while dealing with the challenging situations, through strict adherence to prescribed Standard Operating Procedures, Mufti also advised the security agencies to ensure safety and security of civilians and their properties, while dealing with security and law and order related incidents.
Mehbooba Mufti also asked the security agencies to adopt a calibrated response to various situations during the coming month of Ramadhan, tourist season and Amarnath Yatra and said that the security agencies should provide secure environment and hassle free movement during the coming holy month. However, the killings of civilians during operations have complicated the situation in Valley and politicians of mainstream parties are unable to even connect to the ground due to the seething anger.
Though Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh in response to the demand of ceasefire said that he will speak to the Chief Minister, however, it seems that Centre is not ready to announce any ceasefire as many in New Delhi think that militants are under pressure and the ceasefire will give them a chance to equip themselves and they could see it as a victory. However, announcement of ceasefire by the Centre will restore the credibility of the mainstream politicians especially chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti.
Even the one or two month long ceasefire could give relief to the people in south Kashmir who have been witnessing encounters, operations and killings after every two or three days. This could also open a door to dialogue and could in the long way lead to conducive atmosphere in the Valley. Though taking any decision centre will try to weight many options, however, if centre will seriously think then today, or in future they have to open channels of communications not only with the leadership in Kashmir, but also with Pakistan.
Otherwise it will lead further alienation among the people and Valley could further see the rise in the violence and civilians will have to pay the high price. Even army chief Bipin Rawat had said that he understands that “there isn’t a military solution to this issue”. “This is why we want politicians, political representatives to go into villages especially in South Kashmir to talk to people. But they are scared that they will be attacked,’’ he said.
So the suspension of operations by the political leadership in New Delhi has come at the right time and can pave way for the peace process.
The New Delhi shall take more suggestions from the Interlocutor Dinsehwar Sharma who has now been frequently visiting J&K and meeting people of various spectrums and support its partner in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure the peace returns in the hinterland.
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