Srinagar: Amidst a spurt in militant activities in the Kashmir valley, New Delhi on Wednesday rolled out a major Confidence Building Measure (CBM) as it announced a decision of non-initiation of combat operations against militants. This announcement has been made after government forces killed more than 65 militants in the first four months of this year.
This decision by home minister Rajnath Singh has surprised political pundits. Through this, he has repeated former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's unilateral ceasefire in 2000.
In a series of tweets, Singh said he has informed chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti about the Centre's decision. The BJP-PDP are ruling the state in a coalition government for the first time in the history of the state. Since the coalition assumed power, Kashmir has been moving from one crisis to another.
The home ministry announced in a tweet "
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. HM Shri @rajnathsingh has informed the Chief Minister, J&K of Centre's decision.
" HMO India (@HMOIndia) May 16, 2018
However, there will not be a complete ceasefire. The home ministry has said forces have been given the right to retaliate "if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people."
Security Forces to reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties. " HMO India (@HMOIndia) May 16, 2018
The announcement comes just a week after Mehbooba Mufti, who is also the president of the PDP, convened an all-party meeting in Srinagar which called for a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan. The BJP's state leaders, however, had said they were not supportive of any ceasefire call given from the Valley.
These leaders were taken aback on Wednesday afternoon after the Centre's decision was made public by the home ministry.
"It is a decision by the government. They must have taken it while keeping certain things in mind, and we must all welcome it," Ravindra Raina, the newly elected president of state BJP, told Firstpost.
Omar Abdullah, the working president of the National Conference, said in a tweet "
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.
" Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) May 16, 2018
In a rare display of unity, Mufti had got the National Conference and the Congress to agree to an unequivocal call for a ceasefire with militants. But the PDP's alliance partner, BJP, seems reluctant to agree on anything Mufti's party sees fit for the Valley.
"I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire and would like to thank @narendramodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders and parties who participated in the All Party Meeting and helped build consensus towards this announcement," said Mehbooba Mufti after the Centre's announcement.
The PDP leaders said that the halt in operations should become a foundation for extending dialogue with all the stakeholders for bringing peace in the Valley. Jammu and Kashmir has suffered immensely due to militancy-related violence, the party said in a statement. It further stated that the holy month of Ramadan offers an opportunity to the state to make an appropriate assessment for an effective strategy that provides relief to the masses.
"The holy month of Ramadan has given New Delhi a chance to focus on the promises made and deal with the situation in Kashmir through confidence-building," Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice-president Mohammad Sartaj Madn said.
He said that now is the time for strengthening reconciliatory measures so that the state establishes its credentials as a benevolent power committed to protect the honour , lives and property of the masses.
"The timing is great as it is at the beginning of Ramadan. It should become a base for initiating a dialogue between the Kashmiri people and New Delhi. We have been pushing for this for a long time," Rafi Mir, the chief spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, told Firstpost.
At least 30 youngsters in Kashmir have joined militant groups in the first three months of 2018. Last year, around 124 youths had joined insurgent groups. In 2017, as many as 213 militants were killed in massive counter-insurgency operations. The exercise was termed 'Operation All Out' by security forces. According to sources, there are at least 250 militants currently active in the Valley, which include both foreign and local ones.
It would be interesting to see the response of the militants, who operate mainly from south Kashmir. Encounters and gunfights have been taking place mostly in south Kashmir, where security forces carried out two cordon and search operations even on Wednesday morning.
The Congress chief in Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, told Firstpost that the Centre's decision was a "good move" as "innocent children" were dying in the Valley. He further pointed to the killings of young Kashmiri militants and political workers in south Kashmir.
"What is important to understand is that violence will get us nowhere. We hope that this initiative by the present government will somehow bring peace to the Valley. The militants should respond to this positively," he said.