No word yet from MHA on ceasefire

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, June 14: With just couple of days to go for expiry of month long conditional ceasefire announced by the Centre in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government was yet to take a call on whether to call off the ceasefire or extend it even as Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh today chaired high-level security review meeting on J&K in the Union capital.
The non-initiation of combing operations was announced on May 16 by Rajnath Singh for the holy month of Ramzan, which will conclude with Eid festival on June 16. However, even after the high-level meeting, there was no official word by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on extension of ceasefire or not.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Rajnath Singh was likely to meet or speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before making a formal announcement on extension or no extension in ceasefire.
Sources said few security agencies have flagged disadvantages of ceasefire including regrouping of militants and some within the Home Ministry being in favour of extending it with a rider that intelligence-based operations should be increased.
At a meeting chaired by Rajnath to review security for the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra, the pros and cons of the unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan were discussed with officials from Central and State Governments, security agencies and paramilitary forces.
The security agencies highlighted that during the halt to operations in the holy month of Ramzan, militants have been able to regroup, move more freely and convince youngsters to join them, sources said.
The increase in attacks on security forces, including today’s broad day-light killing of journalist along with his two PSOs, kidnapping and killing of an Army man from South Kashmir and other incidents during past few days were viewed with concern at today’s security review meeting, sources said, adding the militants could create threat for the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra.
Policy makers in the Home Ministry, however, are still debating on the gains and losses of the move.
The officials said a need for carrying out sensitization of route to Amarnath Yatra was discussed so that the security forces gain an upper hand during the two-month long pilgrimage beginning June 28 to August 26.
The move of the Centre is similar to the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO) announced by the first NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during Ramzan in 2000.
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.
During the month of Ramzan, security forces didn’t initiate combing operations but only retaliated to the attacks. While announcing ceasefire, the Government had made it clear that security forces reserved the right to retaliate, if attacked by the militants.
During his visit to Jammu and Kashmir on June  7 and 8, Rajnath had held high-level review of post-ceasefire situation in the Kashmir valley with top officials of all security and Intelligence agencies, operating in Kashmir.
Sources said Rajnath also took detailed view of the incidents this week, which indicated that the militants wanted to increase violence in the Valley. However, security forces did their best to keep the level of violence to minimum possible extent, they added.
The Union Home Minister assured that his Ministry would provide additional companies of para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to Jammu and Kashmir for heightened security of the pilgrims.