The forces will not launch any operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan but they reserve the right to retaliate if attacked, the Home Ministry said today.
The announcement came two days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.
Officials said the move is not a concession to the extremists but an effort to create an environment free of terror and violence during the holy month and there will be no lowering of guard.
Today’s decision has been taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment, a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
The Ministry said the forces, however, reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
The move of the Government of India is similar to the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO) announced by the first NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during Ramadan in 2000.
Today’s announcement comes a week after Mufti had said that the GoI should consider a unilateral ceasefire in the state starting from Ramadan till the completion of the Amarnath yatra in August.
The fasting month of Ramadan is likely to start tomorrow or Friday depending on sighting of the moon and ends on Eid.
However, the ministry did not mention whether the suspension of operations against the militants will continue during the Amarnathyatra which will start on June 28 and conclude on August 26.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed Mehbooba of the central government’s decision.
“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror,” the spokesperson said.
The government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties, the spokesperson said.
During his August 15 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.
He 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 AtalBihari 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 militant 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-Taiba 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 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.
The Lashkar-e-Toiba chief on Wednesday rejected ceasefire announced by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
In an emailed statement, LeT chief Mehmood Shah said ceasefire is no option. “No thought can be given to such compromise”.
“We deem it as sin and disgrace to the sacrifices offered by people in the struggle. We are the heirs of the martyrs. Opting for such choice is treachery to the blood of martyrs,” LeT spokesperson Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi quoted Shah as saying.
Shah said Indian Home Minister’s statement is “nothing but a drama”.
“It may be a wish of India and its few sympathizers and nothing else. Indian army chief General BipinRawat 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 we will be so in future,” he said.
“We are in favour of negotiations but talks in presence of armed forces in the region are not possible,” he said.
“The whole of Jihad Council is behind the leadership of Syed Salahuddin. Our mothers are supporting us by picking up the guns and we can never betray their trust. This indigenous struggle is supported by the pure blood of martyrs and we can never let anyone betray it. We make a vow with the people that we will never betray their trust. We will fight till the end,” he added.
The mainstream parties Wednesday welcomed the “conditional ceasefire” announced by New Delhi saying that the opportunity should be used to start a “sustained dialogue” so that guns do not start roaring again after Eid.
However, ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it should be seen as a bold step and not “something to be welcomed in one word”.
“It is not unconditional ceasefire as was demanded by some. What was demanded by State government was unilateral unconditional ceasefire. What we are trying to feed is that it is conditional in nature. It will not allow militants to run away or to regroup themselves,” said BJP chief spokesperson, Sunil Sethi.
The State BJP had earlier opposed the ceasefire proposal tooth and nail after the All Party Meet was held here last week.
Government of India Wednesday declared a conditional ceasefire in Jammu Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan.
It said the decision was taken as it was important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror.
While the main opposition parties National Conference and Congress welcomed the step, the separatist groups remained tightlipped over the announcement.
Hurriyat (G) spokesperson Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar said that they will deliberate on it first and then comment.
“Our Chairman Syed Ali Geelani will convene a consultative meeting on it first and brief about it accordingly,” he told Kashmir Post.
Senior Hurriyat (M) leader, Abdul Gani Bhat said the conglomerate’s Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq would only talk on it.
“I am no one to comment, I can’t say anything,” he said.
However, the Mirwaiz neither answered repeated phone calls nor replied to text messages about his reaction on the announcement.
Meanwhile, the mainstream parties said they were hopeful that the step needs to be taken forward as it should not remain a casual exercise till the end of Amarnathyatra or Eid.
Ruling PDP chief spokesperson, Rafi Ahmad Mir said it was not the desire of PDP only but of all the people and parties who participated in the All Party Meet.
“It was the desire of all the people… We are happy that New Delhi agreed to our proposal. We believe it will help in stopping the cycle of violence and pave way for a sustained dialogue. We hope everyone will respect it,” Mir told Kashmir Post.
Main opposition National Conference Provincial President, Kashmir, Nasir Aslam Wani said it is a welcome step but the other side also needed to reciprocate.
“We feel the other side should also reciprocate and a sustained dialogue has to be initiated to give help arrive at a political resolution to the issue. Otherwise, after Eid if the guns start roaring again, it will become a meaningless exercise,” Wani told Kashmir Post.
State Congress chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir said it should not remain a casual exercise.
“It should be welcomed in whatever shape it has come. Saving the lives of innocents is a big thing but the initiative should be taken forward,” he said.
AIP chief and MLA Langate, Engineer Rasheed said GoI’s decision had proved militants enjoy public support and eliminating them makes them stronger.
“The unilateral ceasefire is a victory of Kashmiris and now New Delhi should move beyond ceasefire and offer unconditional talks to United Jihad Council and Hurriyat leadership and then start tripartite talks between all the three stakeholders,” he said.
Rasheed said Kashmiris had not sacrificed for the ceasefire or autonomy or any resolution outside the United Nations resolutions but for the right to self-determination, which is their birth right.
He appealed all political parties not to waste time but try to move beyond ceasefire by asking New Delhi to start dialogue with the “real stakeholders”.
CPI (M) State Secretary and MLA Kulgam, Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami said the announcement is a welcome step.
“Not to conduct operations during the month of Ramadhan is a welcome move. We believe violence is option for none, especially for the people living in the conflict. People of Kashmir have been the worst victims of the hostilities during the last many decades,” he said.
Tarigami said the volatile situation in Kashmir where guns have recurred havoc does require some bold step to put an end to the ongoing violence.
“Silence of guns on both sides is the need of hour and we believe it needs to be backed up by serious political initiatives which enable us to involve all the stakeholders,” he said.
Tarigami said the Prime Minister was duty-bound to announce a plan which could help in initiating a process that could finally lead to some acceptable solution.
Former union minister, SaifuddinSoz said no blood-letting should be welcomed on all sides.
“Announcing of ceasefire is good enough to be celebrated and the ceasefire should be utilized to carry forward a process of dialogue,” he said. “It would be even better if the ceasefire in jointly declared by both sides.”
Earlier, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had proposed GoI to announce a ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan and Amarnathyatra.
Announcing a conditional ceasefire, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) asked the government forces not to launch operation against militants during the holy month.
However, State BJP spokesperson toed a different line from other political groups saying with this conditional ceasefire, the GoI has kept the retaliation part with itself.
“It is not that somebody fires the gun and retaliation won’t be there. It is not unconditional ceasefire… as was proposed by the State government,” Sethi said.
On whether State BJP welcomed it, Sethi said, “I can’t say in one word whether we welcome it or not. The decision is a bold one. But it will not allow militants to run away or to regroup because if any activity is done by the other party, there will be retaliation.”
Sethi said where is the question of welcoming it when the move had been made by the appropriate authority.
“We will now wait and watch the activity from the other side,” he said.