Centre Orders Ceasefire in J&K During Ramzan, But Army Says Ops Won't Stop Completely
Just a week after Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti proposed the idea of a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir during Ramzan, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday gave its approval for the same, but with a caveat.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the decision to suspend military operations against terrorists has been taken to help peace loving Muslims observe the holy month of Ramzan peacefully. "The government expects everyone to cooperate in the initiative and help Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without difficulties. It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror," the MHA said in a statement.
The MHA, however, said the security forces will not shy away from retaliating if attacked or to protect the lives of innocent people. MHA officials said that it was not a concession to militants but meant to help people observe a difficulty-free Ramzan. They said that right thinking people want peace, and youngsters want an education and good life. “Hope militants will not make it difficult for people. There will be no lowering of guard during this period,” a senior official said.
Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter to thank Prime Minister Modi and Rajnath Singh for their personal intervention in the matter, which, she hoped, will create a peaceful environment for a sustained dialogue.
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. 1/2— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) May 16, 2018
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. 2/2— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) May 16, 2018
Prime minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Kashmir on May 19 and ahead of that visit, suspension of operations is being seen as a confidence gaining measure by the central government.
According to independent human rights organisations, at least 145 civilians in 2016, 51 in 2017, and 39 more since January this year were killed during different civilian protests and anti-militancy operations. The BJP had earlier said that such a ceasefire would go against the “national interest” and “could wash away the Army’s efforts” in the valley, which has been witnessing large scale civilian and militants killings this year.
The decision has got mixed reactions from the ground. While Indian army said it was consulted and has been permitted to carry out intelligence based operations, MHA officials said that unless security forces are fired upon, they will not unilaterally carry out any operations.
However top officials in the defence forces pointed out that the statement issued by MHA does leave room for specific operations. “Security forces reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
Sources said that the army will reduce Cordon and Destroy Operations (CADO) and Cordon and Search Operations (CASO). “Pro-active operations that the forces were carrying out based on specific intelligence will also be reduced, but area dominance patrolling will continue.
Officials clarified that there is no blanket ban on operations by security forces. They said it is essential because an earlier suspension of operation in 2001 had led to Lashkar-e-Taiba attacking the Srinagar airport with a fidayeen squad.
"It was then called NICO – non-initiation of combat operations. During that period the Srinagar airport came under fidayeen attack in January 2001. Six terrorists, two civilians and two paramilitary personnel were killed in that operation," an official said.
Defence experts have expressed apprehension that any ceasefire could be used as a veil to help terrorists regroup. Defence expert, Brigadier (R) V Mahalingam, told CNN-News18, “Right now forces have the upper hand in valley. The leadership of Hizbul is over. Any cessation of operation at this stage will take the momentum away from security forces and only help terrorists regroup."
As per government data, in the last four months 65 terrorists have been killed in operations launched by forces. But far from proving as a deterrent, the last four months have seen 41 local Kashmiri boys take up arms and join terror organisations.
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