Mehbooba, Madhav, Farooq welcome decision
JAMMU, May 16: Responding to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s call for unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during holy month of Ramzan, like the one Atal Behari Vajpayee had ordered in 2000, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today announced conditional ceasefire directing security forces not to launch operations in J&K during Ramzan. Click here to watch video
While announcing this, Rajnath, however, said that security forces reserved the right to retaliate, if attacked by the militants or if it was necessary to protect lives of the people.
During nearly three decades of militancy, this is only for the second time that the Centre has announced ceasefire, or conditional ceasefire, in Jammu and Kashmir and both the times it was BJP-led NDA Government in power. The first ceasefire was announced by Vajpayee on November 21, 2000, which had come into effect from November 28, 2000 and was extended thrice from December 28 to January 26, January 27 to February 26, and February 27 to March 20. The last extension lasted till May 30, 2001. A total of 838 persons were killed during about six-month long ceasefire.
The announcement of conditional ceasefire assumed significance as it comes just three days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s one-day tour of Jammu and Kashmir on May 19 during which he will inaugurate some projects and lay foundation of others.
The Union Home Ministry took to twitter to announce the important decision this afternoon, a demand for which had been made by Mehbooba after May 9 All Party Meeting in Srinagar. However, BJP, a coalition partner of Mehbooba’s PDP in the State, had immediately distanced itself from the ceasefire call. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also ruled out ceasefire.
“The Centre has asked security forces not to launch operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment,” an MHA tweet said.
It added that Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir about the Centre’s decision.
The MHA tweet, however, made it clear that security forces reserved the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror,” the Home Ministry said.
The fasting month of holy Ramzan will start tomorrow.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti immediately reacted to the announcement of the Home Ministry.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire & would like to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders and parties who participated in the All Party Meeting and help build consensus towards this announcement,” Mehbooba tweeted minutes after the MHA’s announcement on conditional ceasefire.
Through another tweet, the Chief Minister said: “the month of Ramadan is a harbinger of peace & such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful and amicable environment for a sustained dialogue”.
Mehbooba said the decision would go a long way in healing wounds of the people of the State, who have been suffering tragedies and pain of violence and uncertainty for the past three decades or so. She urged all groups to reciprocate positively to the gesture which is aimed at giving relief to the people of the State.
Though the BJP had distanced itself from Mehbooba’s ceasefire demand after All Party Meeting on May 9, BJP general secretary and party’s pointman on Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav today welcomed the decision and hoped it will be reciprocated by one and all.
“We welcome the prudent decision taken by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister with a profound hope that this gesture will be reciprocated by one and all and the Valley will witness peace during the holy month of Ramzan,” Madhav tweeted.
“However, Madhav said,: “Army’s operations will halt during Ramzan but not their relation, if attacked. This gesture doesn’t mean security forces will be sitting ducks. They will take appropriate measures to ensure peace.”
National Conference president, Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was the Chief Minister in 2000 when the ceasefire was announced by Atal Behari Vajpayee, described the Centre’s decision as a “great step”.
“It is a great step forward. I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. This reminds me of Atal Ji’s era when he announced unilateral ceasefire. I welcome this,” Dr Abdullah said.
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said if the militants now don’t respond in kind, they will stand exposed as true enemies of the people.
“On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which has 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.
“Centre will call this a NICO-Non-initiation of Combing Operations. It’s what they called it during the Vajpayee-Advani era as well but it’s still a unilateral ceasefire. A rose by any other name,” Omar said in a couple of tweets.
During his Independence Day address last year, Modi had said bullets or abuses will not resolve the Kashmir issue and that it can be addressed by embracing every Kashmiri.
Modi had said his Government is committed to restoring the lost glory of Kashmir and its status as ‘heaven on earth’.
The Prime Minister had said only a “handful of separatists” were resorting to different tactics to create problems in the State and asserted that there will be no soft approach towards terrorism.
The first NDA Government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had taken a similar initiative in 2000 by announcing a unilateral suspension of operations for Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan that year which continued for five months.
Almost all terrorist groups operating in the Valley in 2000 had rejected the Government offer.
However, the NICO was discontinued after five months after increased violence, including an attack at the Srinagar airport in which six militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba stormed it killing two security personnel and two civilians. All six militants were also killed in the retaliatory firing.
The valley has witnessed the killing of over 55 militants including at least 27 locals this year.
The situation in Kashmir valley is considered to be turbulent where nearly 80 incidents of violence occurred in last four months and civilians were often seen coming out to encounter sites to stage protests with the intention of giving the militants an opportunity to escape.