Bloodshed in Ceasefire

Rajan Gandhi
Pakistan has been instrumental in fermenting trouble in Kashmir ever since both countries gained their independence in 1947. Since 1989 militants have been on the killing spree unabatedly with little respite to the public which even saw exodus of whole Kashmiri Pandit community from the valley in 1990.Violence continued for almost a decade and in 1999 India and Pakistan even had a limited border conflict, Kargil war after armed invaders with regular Pakistan army crossed the Line of Control in the hills of Kargil. Pakistan had to retreat leaving behind dead bodies of their regular soldiers.
With the Indian Army having upper hand , on July 25th, 2000 – Hizbul Mujahedeen declared a unilateral cease fire for three months in Jammu and Kashmir. Vajpayee government immediately responded to this, invited Hizbul Mujahedeen for talks and as such on August 3rd, 2000 peace talks with Hizbul Mujahedeen were initiated in Srinagar. Seeing much appreciation from every quarter for Indian Government’s initiative, even from international forum as well as UN, Pakistan got perturbed and  as expected after pressure from ISI, on August 8th , 2000 – Hizbul Mujahedeen called off its two-week-old ceasefire and ordered terrorists to resume fight against Indian troops. However our PM Vajpayee saw the opportunity and gave peace a much needed chance by announcing on November 19th, 2000 a unilateral ceasefire. His exact statement was, “The holy month of Ramzan… is soon approaching. The Government has, therefore, instructed the security forces not to initiate combat operations against militants in Jammu & Kashmir during this most pious month in the Islamic calendar.” The ceasefire began on November 28 and was extended three times – from December 28 to January 26, from January 27 to February 26, and from February 27 to March 20, 2001, last extension continuing until May 30th, 2001. As per details available 838 people, 293 militants-197 security personnel-348 civilians, lost their lives during the ceasefire . Some major attacks were executed with unprecedented violence. On 14th  January 2001 rifle grenade attack followed by firing was launched on then CM Farooq Abdullah while inaugurating a bridge at Habbakadal. On 16th  January 2001 a daring attack was made  on the airport at Srinagar in Kashmir leaving at least 11 people dead, including six militants who stormed the heavily guarded area with grenades and automatic weapons. On 9th of February 2001 police control room was attacked at Batmaloo in Srinagar by Lashkar-e-Toiba fidayeen in which one policeman was killed and eight others were injured. Until then, the terrorists had been attacking the Indian Army, the BSF or CRPF establishments, but this time the fidayeen wanted to send out a message that no one in the security forces was safe. Ultimately after seeing the futility of ceasefire on May 23, 2001 ceasefire against terrorists was withdrawn.
Simultaneously Vajpayee Government made another master diplomatic move by  inviting then  Pakistani military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, for peace talks aimed at ending five decades of hostilities between the two countries.On July 14th -16th , 2001 – Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had famous meeting at Agra, but the  three-day summit failed to produce a joint statement on Kashmir. Pakistan true to its colors acted cowardly once again as on 1st October 2001 when three Pakistan backed terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed carried out an attack on the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly complex in Srinagar using a Tata Sumo loaded with explosives, ramming it into the main gate with three fidayeen bombers. 38 people and three fidayeen lost their lives followed by an attack on Indian Parliament on 13th of December 2001. This time the perpetrators were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the attack on the symbol of Indian Democracy led to the death of five terrorists, six Delhi Police personnel, two Parliament Security Service personnel and a gardener, in total 14 and subsequently on December 20th, 2001 the Indian army was deployed on border with Pakistan including the northern states of Kashmir and Punjab. After sustained international pressure in January 2002, General Musharraf outlaws the three main Pakistani-based Islamic militant groups. Meanwhile on Indian side in October 2002 after four rounds of polls to choose a new state administration concluded though large number of people were killed during the election campaign and ultimately  Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took oath as CM of J&K. Simultaneously in November 2003 – India and Pakistan agreed to  a ceasefire along their borders which went into effect on November 26th  and was the first ceasefire between two countries  in 14 years of militancy though Pakistan continued to bleed India through its proxies.
With this historic background, the present conditional ceasefire carries much significance. On one hand South Kashmir is the PDP bastion and the problem for the party is that the region has become an epicenter of militancy. The by-polls to Anantnag-Pulwama parliamentary seat, which was vacated by Mehbooba Mufti after taking over as CM on April 4, 2016, has not been held so far due to security concerns. PDP feels that a halt in the anti-militancy operations, civilian and militant killings would go a long way in normalising the situation in South Kashmir and it would also create a conducive atmosphere for holding parliamentary polls in the Valley next year. The killings of militants and civilians sets in a cycle of killings, resulting in more youth taking up arms and the cycle goes on and on.  The stopping of anti-militant operations and CASO might bring the situation back to normal in south Kashmir ahead of the 2019 parliamentary polls, hopes the PDP. On the other hand, our army initially reluctant to any “unilateral” suspension of operations in the absence of any reciprocal signal from Pakistan-controlled terror outfits or with others like the Hurriyat but after two of its main operational concerns were addressed in what is essentially a political decision, army has agreed to the proposal. Acceding to our army’s demand, our Army will have the right to retaliate if any convoy, camp or patrol is attacked and secondly, Army will be allowed to conduct specific intelligence-based operations, like the one in which Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sameer Bhat alias Sameer Tiger was killed in Pulwama district on April 30. Though the Army’s “area domination patrols” will continue as before, “pro-active” CASO (cordon-and-search) and SADO (seek-and-destroy) operations will be “curtailed”. Some CASO/ SADO operations, however, will be required to continue to sanitize, for instance, roads for vehicular movements though the Army still believes the non-initiation of combat operations undertaken in 2000-2001 by the Vajpayee Government “failed to achieve any concrete results” and instead led to a surge in violence.
Terror outfits had used such interregnums in the past to regroup and re-arm with attack on J&K’s legislative council and later on the Parliament and situation is much more difficult this time as the stone pelters have already made the situation worse with strikes not only on army but on kids of school as well as tourists. The terrorists have already shown their intentions on the very first day of ceasefire with snatching of two rifles from police as well as killing of a civilian in North Kashmir and Pakistan making the entire IB hot with shelling on civilian targets resulting numerous deaths and hardships to the public. With no bunkers despite repeated announcements by governments time and again, the entire border belt is facing the brunt and paying a huge price. Schools are closed, cattle abandoned without fodder and water in this scorching summer, people are forced to have shelter with their near and dear ones and practically border population has been rendered refugees in their own state. More significantly border belts pounded by Pakistan are BJP’s constituencies. Message is clear; there are no takers for this ceasefire, clearly blood seekers don’t have any regard for Ramzan as even an eight month old has been killed astonishingly by a sniper fire.
All security agencies have to be extra vigilant in safeguarding vital assets as Pakistan backed terrorists will definitely try to strike big to further create the wedge. With Shri Amarnath yatra commencing next month is it worth taking the calculated gamble which only time will tell. There is much more on stake, PDP trying to gain the faith of people and BJP has readily obliged its coalition partner but is the Nation going to pay the price again like in the past or will it be a turning point in the militancy torn State, again only time will tell and till then let’s keep our fingers crossed. Time and again terrorists have proven that they don’t belong or believe in any religion, will it be different this time is a million dollar question which nobody can answer right now. Let us hope better sense prevails this time with vicious circle of violence gets broken and peace gets the well deserved chance.
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new relations.”


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