On June 6, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti warned that “militants were desperate to sabotage the ceasefire” in place since the month of Ramzan began in Kashmir. On June 14, a series of attacks targeted more than just the ongoing attempt at bringing back a sense of calm to the Valley. The attack by terrorists in Bandipora, the abduction and killing of a soldier from Pulwama, and the murder of Shujaat Bukhari, veteran journalist and editor of Rising Kashmir, are more than just an act of grave provocation to the state. The first killing of a journalist in Kashmir in over a decade is an attack on free speech, on democracy and on the idea that the people of Kashmir deserve peace and a political solution to a complex and congealed crisis.
Bukhari was a voice both in and for Kashmir, respected across the spectrum of politics. He was a part of the Track II dialogue process with Pakistan. His murder, as well as the other acts of terror on June 14, carry two messages. The first is that those engaged in acts of nihilistic violence cannot brook an independent voice. The second is that there is a concerted effort by non-state actors to hijack the political process in Kashmir. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said the Centre will decide whether or not to extend the unilateral ceasefire after Eid. As the Government of India and the security establishment consider the next step and the way forward in Kashmir, they must not let terror define the process of engagement.
It is important to remember that the Ramzan ceasefire, despite the incidents of infiltration and militancy, has led to discernible progress in J&K. The pause in operations by security forces over the last month may also have laid the ground for a conversation between the DGMOs of the Indian and Pakistan armies, and an agreement to respect, in letter and spirit, the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC. Mufti, speaking in one of a series of public meetings earlier this month, said that the pause in security operations “had brought great relief to the people” of Kashmir and asked for the ceasefire to be extended. The BJP-led government at the Centre should seriously consider its ally’s request. The violence in the state since the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 has severely bruised the already scarred political process in the state. The Ramzan ceasefire was an expression of hope and optimism, a gesture of generosity that expressed faith in dialogue. That spirit must stand tall in the face of terror.