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.