The central government yesterday announced a ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, asking security forces to halt their operations during Ramadan to help “peace loving Muslims” observe the holy month in a peaceful environment.
The announcement, reminiscent of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s similar initiative in 2000, comes barely two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Jammu to inaugurate development projects and address the sixth convocation of a university in the winter capital.
A home ministry statement said that security forces had been told not to launch operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month that begins today.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh conveyed the decision over phone to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who had appealed for a ceasefire after an all-party meeting in Srinagar on May 9 – a call that was questioned by the state BJP, the coalition partner of the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) in the state government.
A close aide of the chief minister said Singh called her, saying the Centre has decided “a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan”.
Mehbooba Mufti “wholeheartedly” welcomed the initiative and thanked Modi and Singh “for their personal intervention”.
“The month of Ramadan is a harbinger of peace and such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful and amicable environment for a sustained dialogue.”
The home ministry statement, however, added that security forces would reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if it was essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
“(The) government expects everyone to co-operate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramadan peacefully and without any difficulties,” it said.
Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah asked the militants to reciprocate to provide relief to the people during the holy month.
“Now if the militants don’t respond in kind, they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people,” he tweeted.
Separatist leaders and militants groups were yet to react to the move.
It comes ahead of Modi’s Jammu trip on Saturday.
He will lay foundation stones of a 1,000MW Pakal Dul hyrdo electric project and Jammu Ring Road from the University of Jammu.
Modi will also address the sixth convocation of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu (SKUAST-Jammu).
The first time the central government announced a halt to operations against militants was on November 19, 2000, when Vajpayee made a unilateral declaration of stopping combat operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
This was for a period of one month during Ramadan which was extended thrice till May 31, 2001. But violence didn’t stop and over 1,200, including 445 civilians, were killed in militancy related incidents during the four months of the ceasefire, according South Asia Terrorism Portal that curates data on terrorism in the region.
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