Responding to call for unilateral ceasefire in J&K by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Center on Wednesday asked security forces not to launch anti-militancy operations in the state during holy month of Ramadhan.
The announcement comes ahead of the Prime MInister Narendra Modi's Jammu visit on Saturday during which he is scheduled to inaugurate a ropeway to Vaishno Devi hill shrine. He will lay foundation stones of 1000 MW Pakal Dul hyrdo electric project and Jammu Ring Road..
Modi will also address sixth convocation of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu (SKUAST).
The decision has been taken to help peace loving Muslims observe Ramadhan in a peaceful environment, a home ministry spokesperson said.
The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed Mehbooba of the central government's decision. "It is important to isolate forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror," the spokesperson said.
The security forces, however, reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people, the ministry said.
"The government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramadhan peacefully and without any difficulties," the spokesperson said.
The ceasefire announcement comes days after All-Party Meeting headed by Mehbooba on May 9 urged New Delhi to announce ceasefire during upcoming Ramadhan and Amarnath Yatra. After chairing the four-hour meeting here, the Chief Minister had said the parties were of unanimous view about a unilateral ceasefire soon.
"Everyone agreed that we must appeal Government of India that they should consider a unilateral ceasefire like Vajpayeeji did in 2000," Mufti flanked by deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta, had told reporters. "The government of India should think about it so that common man can heave a sigh of relief."
Though some senior state BJP leaders and ministers and a minister from PMO had opposed the proposal, today's announcement comes as a big relief for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party which has come under sharp criticism for rising number of civilian killings during gunfights in the Valley.
In November 2000, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajaypee had declared a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir for the holy month of Ramdhan. The ceasefire was extended for five more months before being brought to a close on May 23, 2001.
That ceasefire announcement had followed a unilateral ceasefire by militant group Hizb-ul- Mujahideen in July 2000 that resulted in failed talks with the then Union Home Secretary Kamal Pande at Nehru Guest House here.
The militant outfit withdrew its truce within two weeks after Government of India refused to accept its demand, mainly the inclusion of Pakistan in talks on Kashmir.
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 valley has witnessed the killing of over 55 militants including at least 27 locals this year.
CM hails announcement
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has welcomed the Centre's announcement of halting the security operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadhan which is about to start.
In a statement, the Chief Minister said the decision would go a long way in healing the wounds of people of the state's who have been suffering the tragedies and pain of violence and uncertainty for the past three decades or so.
"What better a time to go for this significant decision than the onset of holy month of Ramadhan which promotes values of patience, self-restraint and tolerance", she said in her statement adding that it would also provide the necessary breather to the people from the violence which they have been craving for so long.
The CM thanked the Central Government particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh for making the momentous decision adding that this marks the beginning of listening to the accounts of agony of the state's people by the country's leadership and the policymakers which she has been requesting time and again.
The Chief Minister urged all groups to reciprocate positively to the gesture which is aimed at giving relief to the people of the state who have seen enough torment and tragedy.
Mehbooba Mufti also thanked all the political parties in the State which backed her idea of cessation of hostilities in one voice during the All Parties Meeting convened by her recently.
Farooq, Omar welcome
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday welcomed ceasefire announcement for holy month of Ramadhan in J&K and urged government of India to re-start the dialogue process for final solution of Kashmir.
"We welcome the announcement but it should be sustained on the pattern of the ceasefire that was announced by (former Prime Minister Atal Biharai) Vajpayee Ji. This initiative should be taken forward and the much needed dialogue process should be restarted for permanent solution of Kashmir," Abdullah said.
Omar want militants to respond
Welcoming the announcement of halt in force operations in Kashmir by Center, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said if the militants don't respond to the announcement they will stand exposed as true enemies of Kashmiris.
"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 tweeted soon after the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire by New Delhi. GKNN
Move vindicates CM: Madni
Peoples Democratic Party vice-president Sartaj Madni has welcomed Union Home Minister's assurance to state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to effect a unilateral ceasefire during Ramadhan as desired by her, reads a statement issued by the party.
"Madni said this will pre-empt violence or any harm to innocent people and will lead to a new atmosphere of confidence building in the troubled state," the statement reads.
"Jammu and Kashmir has suffered immensely due to militancy related violence and the holy month of Ramadhan offers an opportunity to the state to make an appropriate assessment for an effective strategy that provides relief to masses," the statement said.
Madni, the statement reads, said the concept of a welfare state seizes to exist if a common citizen is seen pitted against the state machinery.
"While drawing a strategy to deal even with difficult situations the law and order machinery has to be aware about this obligation in the interest of its own reputation," the statement reads.
"Madni said it is in this belief about the democratic structure and centre's willingness to cooperate that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti desired declaration of cease-fire and sought involvement of all political compositions to make this happen. She wanted this to make a fresh beginning in restoring people's confidence in the strength of the state to bear the losses and yet be people-friendly. PDP is happy that she is vindicated," the statement reads.
Madni said the experiences of New Delhi are not limited in respect to problems facing the state of Jammu and Kashmir and restraint is not the first or last experiment for tackling insurgencies, according to the statement.
"In any situation the motive and purpose is to secure the confidence of the citizens in the system and that can only be done fashioning the establishment into compassionate and prudent mindset.
"He said ceasefire announcement following security force top brass announcement to scale down CASO's comes as great relief and should be implemented in letter and spirit," the statement said.
Madni said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee adopted such an approach and was able to leave an indelible impression on minds of the people on the efficacy and positivity of compassionate and reconciliatory measures , which if continued will yield dividends to all, the statement reads.
Madni hoped that decision of restraint will thus be further expanded to virtual ceasefire so that a beginning is made to build bridges with youth through public good will which cannot be earned otherwise, the statement said.
"He said the holy month of Ramadhan has given New Delhi a chance to focus on the promises made and deal with the situation in Kashmir through confidence building envisaging a spirit to own. He said now is the time that reconciliatory measures are strengthened gradually even in situations of provocation so that state establishes its credentials as a benevolent power committed to protect the honour, lives and property of the masses," the statement reads.
Ball in militants' court : Police
Jammu and Kashmir police Wednesday put the ball in militants' court, saying government forces in the state will only retaliate if militants continue their attacks, after Government of India announced to suspend anti-militancy operations during the month of Ramadhan.
"We won't initiate any action against the militants in the fasting month," director general of police Shesh Paul Vaid told Greater Kashmir.
"Let people pray at ease at the night. Our focus will be on the people and their safety."
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated in his tweet security forces reserved the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
A senior officer in the security grid said the effectiveness of the Centre's announcement would depend on how the militants react to it.
"If they (militants) continue to attack us, we are bound to retaliate. The only thing we have to ensure is to avoid civilian causalities and that's a tough thing," the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"A single incident of collateral damage will damage the very motive of Centre's announcement. So we have to be very cautious."
A top army officer said directions from New Delhi would be followed in "letter and spirit".
"The army hopes for the positive outcome of the ceasefire announcement in the State," said the Kashmir-based army officer.
A senior police officer said directions have been passed on to the police chiefs of every district to abide by the call for halting operations against militants.
"We will, however, facilitate people offer nightlong prayers in a peaceful atmosphere without any disturbance," he said.
Inspector General of Central Reserve Police Force Ravideep Sahi said that Centre's announcement is a good decision.
"Our force will abide by the Centre's announcement," he said
Drama, says Lashkar
Militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on Wednesday rejected the Ramadhan ceasefire announced by the central government by calling it a "drama".
In a statement, LeT spokesman Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi while quoting the outfit's chief Mahmood Shah, said that "ceasefire is no option and no thought can be given to such a compromise."
"We deem it as a sin and disgrace to the sacrifices made in the freedom struggle. We are the heirs of the martyrs. Opting for such choice is treachery to blood of martyrs and there is no disgrace worse than this (opting for a ceasefire)," he said in the statement.
Ghaznavi said the statement of Home Minister Rajnath Singh "is nothing but a drama."
"It may be a wish of India and its few sympathizers and nothing else. Bipin Rawat is of the opinion that he may threaten Kashmiris by imposing atrocities on unarmed students. It has neither happened before nor will it happen now. We were active in the resistance before and so we will be in future," he said.
Shah, according to the spokesman, said that they favour the negotiations but not in the presence of armed forces in the region.
Shah is also quoted to have said that the Jihad Council has complete faith in the leadership of Syed Salahuddin.
"Our mothers are supporting us by picking up the guns and we can never betray their trust. This indigenous freedom struggle is supported by the pure blood of martyrs and we can never let anyone betray it. We promise to the people that we will never betray their trust and the immense sacrifices they have gone through in the freedom struggle," Shah said. "We will fight to the last drop of our blood in our struggle against illegal occupation. India shall soon witness the wrath of the people. We will continue the armed struggle until Jammu and Kashmir has won its freedom". (KNS)