AFTER SOME hesitation by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on accepting the appeal by its coalition partner and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Central government has gone ahead with a unilateral declaration of a ceasefire against militants during the holy month of Ramzan. While the goodwill gesture is welcome, lack of spadework and absence of a plan for building up momentum towards peace has raised doubts over the ultimate benefit of the gesture.
It’s quite unlike the similar gesture in 2000-2001 when then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had talked of Insaaniyat (humanism), Jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir’s legacy). He also followed it up by initiating dialogue with various stakeholders and Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent visit to the state, also referred to Vajpayee’s references and said "Modi too is a disciple of Kashmiriyat.”
The prime minister, in fact, also sought to maintain a balance by pointing out that he spent his Diwali with the soldiers in Gurez and was visiting the state during the holy month of Ramzan. "I had said from Red Fort that this issue is not going to be resolved by abuses, this issue is not going to be resolved by bullets, it could be resolved by hugging every Kashmiri,” he said.
It was a difficult decision to announce a unilateral ceasefire. In fact there was initial hesitation after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made the appeal following an all-party meeting. Later, however, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the ceasefire through a tweet.
It is evident, however, that neither Modi nor his representatives followed up the gesture by inviting various stakeholders, including separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik. It is well-known that they take orders from Pakistan and terrorist organisations and took some time to respond by declaring that the one-month ceasefire was a ‘sham’. They said the government has not laid down any roadmap for the future. There is no doubt that it was indeed an unfortunate response as the gesture had provided a window to such organisations to seize the opportunity and try to end the cycle of violence that had been escalating since the killing of Burhan Wani nearly two years ago.
Similarly, their mentors like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HM) have ‘rejected’ the offer and have issued fresh threats. Even the Pakistan security forces, evidently at the behest of the government, have stepped up cross-border firing and the list of casualties and injuries to civilian population as well as personnel of Border Security Force has swelled. Of course the Indian security forces are responding in full measure and the situation has worsened over the last few months.
To be fair to Modi, it was a difficult decision to announce a unilateral ceasefire. In fact there was initial hesitation after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made the appeal following an all-party meeting. Later, however, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the ceasefire through a tweet. The gesture also militates against the stated ‘muscular’ policy of the Modi government against Kashmir violence. It was also against the wishes of the security forces involved in counter insurgency and at the border.
The gesture is towards the people of Kashmir, not for the terrorists. Hopefully it would provide a respite from stone pelting crowds and retaliatory actions during the holy month of Ramzan in the only Muslim-majority state in the country.
Although the government has made it clear that the ceasefire does not prevent the security forces from acting in defence or retaliating, critics believe that the cessation of search operations and pro-active steps by security forces may lead to ‘regrouping’ of militant groups. This may not be true as the security forces haven’t been asked to give up their vigilance or allow any such regrouping.
The gesture is towards the people of Kashmir, not for the terrorists. Hopefully it would provide a respite from stone pelting crowds and retaliatory actions during the holy month of Ramzan in the only Muslim-majority state in the country. If the gesture is able to evoke some goodwill among even a section of its residents, it would be a step forward towards taking people along.
With decades of experience in the use of force, and the advantages of guerrilla warfare that the militants have, it is a no-brainer that other ways have to be found out of the impasse. The Modi government initiative was good but some homework before announcing the month-long ceasefire, like asking the state government to obtain assurances from overground organisations or involving Pakistan government, could have gone a long way in accruing more benefits from the decision.
*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)
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