|S U M M A R Y|
Ignoring warnings at the highest level by the entire security establishment Government of India has once again decided to play with fire by announcing ‘unilateral ceasefire’ for a 30 day long period of Ramzan in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The surprise announcement comes at a time when Indian army’s operation ‘All Out‘ was going on in full steam and resulted in the elimination of top commanders of various terrorist outfits in Kashmir Valley.
Interestingly, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chose to break the news on the Twitter handle of Union Home Ministry ahead of the day-long visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the state on May 19.
The announcement also comes close on the heels of a passionate appeal made by Mehbooba Mufti after chairing an all-party meeting in Srinagar which called for ceasefire during Ramzan.
The meeting was convened by her to discuss the prevailing political and security situation in the state with leaders of different mainstream political parties.
According to tweets posted the Home Ministry “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”.
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.
However, the forces “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
Initially the Indian army was reluctant to come on board but only after top brass of the Indian army convinced the political leadership why it was necessary to maintain upper hand over militant groups in Kashmir at this stage they readily agreed to the decision taken by the political leadership at the highest level.
Many questions still remain unanswered
More than the decision the events preceding the announcement left everyone in a state of shock.
Last week when J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had made a passionate appeal to the Prime Minister to consider the demand for a unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan the centre had given her a cold response.
A day later all the bonhomie displayed during the All parties meeting in Srinagar vanished in thin air as state BJP leaders distanced themselves from the proposal, maintaining that there was no consensus and that the BJP would oppose such a demand “tooth and nail”.
An interview of the Army Chief Bipin Rawat also appeared in a National daily where he was quoted as saying, “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.”
To make matters worse for Mehbooba Mufti Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also went on record to say that “terrorism will be dealt with a firm hand”
Speaking to the media, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated on May 13, “Indian Army has to firmly handle any terrorism which threatens the peace and harmony of Jammu and Kashmir as a state and of the rest of country. The army’s position is that it has to be firm on terrorism.”
“Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Terrorism has to be eliminated by the Indian Army for which firm action is required. There will be no let up on terror. We will take action every minute,”
Some of the Union Ministers had even argued saying ”Let the terrorists seek a ceasefire first”.
In the wake of these developments, the Govt of India still decided to announce a unilateral ceasefire. By doing so the ruling party is either playing a gamble or has been forced to take a U-turn after it found its offensive approach on Kashmir is resulting in more bloodshed and it is high time to adopt course correction keeping in mind the ground realities.
LeT Rejected the announcement of Ceasefire from Home Minister
Within few hours of the announcement of ceasefire LeT rejected the offer ceasefire from @HMOIndia @rajnathsingh. In a statement LeT spokesman said even thinking about it is “grave sin”. Calls it “treason with the blood of martyrs”. “How can we be expected to put off arms at a time when our mothers (ref to Saddam Paddar’s mother) are picking up guns?”
Earlier in the day, Kashmir university witnessed a rifle snatching incident outside the university gate. According to police unidentified persons overpowered a policeman posted at Rumi Gate of Kashmir University and ran away with his service rifle. In another incident firing was reported from Shopian shortly after the ceasefire announcement was made but later the operations were called off without neutralizing the hiding militants in the area.
How politicians in J&K reacted to the announcement of Ceasefire
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the decision will prove to be instrumental in creating a peaceful and amicable environment in the state.
Former CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the ball was now in militants’ court.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire & would like to thank @narendramodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders & parties who participated in the All Party Meeting & helped build consensus towards this announcement,” Mufti tweeted.
“The month of Ramadan is a harbinger of peace & such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful & amicable environment for a sustained dialogue,” she added.
Omar Abdullah tweeted and said if the militants don’t respond to the ceasefire move, they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people.
“On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people,” the NC leader wrote on Twitter.
“Centre will call this a NICO – Non-initiation of combat operations. It’s what they called it during the Vajpayee-Advani era as well but it’s still a unilateral cease-fire. A rose by any other name……..,” he added.
Army’s concerns were addressed
Before making the final announcement lot of brainstorming happened behind the doors between top brass of the Indian army and political bosses.
It is only after top generals were able to convince the political leadership of the country not to trim down routine operations/ exercises carried out by the security forces to maintain peace in the valley the common meeting ground was found.
As per the arrangement, the army would continue to carry out routine patrols but they have agreed to suspend proactive cordon and search operations in the hinterland to give space to the local population and allow them to offer prayers during Ramzan peacefully.
In many pockets of South Kashmir, the security forces were facing a lot of resistance from stone pelting crowd during anti-terrorist operations in the built-up areas.
It is because of these stone pelters the local militants managed to give slip to the security forces.
The increasing number of local youth joining the ranks of militancy was also a major cause of worry for the security forces especially when youth decided to take up arms after attending the funeral procession of a slain terrorist in the close vicinity of their villages.
According to official sources, the forces will continue to carry out operations based on specific intelligence (or if they come under attack), continue with area domination exercises, and keep protecting military convoys.
Road Opening Parties and sanitization of major highways and subsidiary roads will also continue during the ceasefire period.
While holding threadbare discussions over announcing ceasefire the Army authorities made it clear that it may generate political goodwill but at the same time, it could prove counterproductive for the army.
There is every possibility that the terrorists could use this period to relaunch themselves.
Lessons from the past
During Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term in office Government of India had announced unilateral ceasefire on November 19, 2000. The ceasefire was extended every month and continued till May 31, 2001.
Was there peace in Kashmir after the announcement and enforcement of ceasefire?
The official statistics in this regard are frightening.
There was no peace in Kashmir during the ceasefire period.
The period between January 1 and May 31, 2001, witnessed a total of 1221 casualties.
As per official statistics, 445 civilians and 233 security personnel lost their lives.
The security forces also liquidated 543 terrorists.
In other words, the number of civilians and security forces personnel killed between January 1 and May 31, 2001, was more as compared with terrorists: 678, as against 543 terrorists, including foreigners and local.
The total number of persons, including civilians and security forces personnel, was 1433. These included 547 security forces personnel and 886 civilians.