A week after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti requested the Centre to consider a ceasefire for a peaceful Ramzan and Amarnath Yatra, the Centre Wednesday announced a to halt anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The appeal came after the idea was floated at an All-Party Meet called by the Chief Minister in Srinagar to discuss the situation in the Valley. This, however, is not the first time that the Valley has seen a cessation of hostilities.
1994, JKLF: Yasin Malik, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), announced a unilateral ceasefire and turned his pro-independence militant outfit into a separatist political party. The government, however, didn’t respond and, according to Malik, several hundred JKLF activists were killed even after the ceasefire announcement. Several years later, Malik claimed that western powers had nudged him on the ceasefire, with some Indian intellectuals, too, having played a role.
2000, Hizb: On July 24, 2000, the Hizbul Mujahideen announced an unexpected halt to its operations. The outfit’s then chief of operations, Abdul Majeed Dar, travelled to Kashmir and declared a ceasefire, and the government promptly reciprocated by halting anti-militancy operations. Dar and his associates entered into a dialogue with the Centre soon afterward, and on August 4, Hizb militants and the Army played a cricket match in Kupwara. However, the following month, the Hizb’s Pakistan-based leader Syed Salahuddin called off the cessation of hostilities, and sidelined Dar. In 2002, the Hizb expelled him, and on March 24, 2003, he was killed outside his home at Sopore.
2000, Centre: On November 19, 2000, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government announced a unilateral ceasefire on the eve of Ramzan, which was implemented on November 28. The ceasefire was extended three times, and lasted till May 30, 2001. The militant outfits, however, rejected the ceasefire and continued attacking the security forces.
While the Centre said Wednesday that security forces had been asked to not launch anti-militancy operations during the holy month of Ramzan that begins Thursday, the forces, will have “the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people”. The announcement came two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the Valley.
Mainstream parties in the state have welcomed the announcement, but the separatists have been silent. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has rejected the ceasefire.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told The Indian Express, “Home Minister Rajnath Singh called me to say the Centre had decided on a ceasefire during the month of Ramzan… This is very good news. I hope that everybody supports this initiative.”
The Chief Minister said she hoped Pakistan would respond positively, “so that militants, respecting the holy month of Ramzan, also give a positive response, and help us stop the bloodshed that is happening for the last few years”.
During the first four months of the year, over 50 militants and at least 37 civilians have been killed, mostly during anti-militancy operations, in South Kashmir. Despite the success of the Army’s operations, youths have remained keen on joining militant organisations.
Former Chief Minister and Opposition leader Omar Abdullah said the militants would be “exposed” if they failed to respond to the ceasefire. “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 posted on Twitter.