Partial ceasefire needs to be monitored to ensure terrorists don’t use it to regroup
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s insistence on a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu & Kashmir, including on the India-Pakistan border, in the holy month of Ramzan, will provide a breather to terrorist organisations active in the Valley. The demand for a ceasefire, which the Centre on Wednesday partially accepted by directing security forces not to launch/initiate any operations for one month though the Union Home Ministry clarified that retaliation to any attack by terrorists and armed intervention by the forces when necessary to save innocent lives will go ahead regardless during this period, emanated from an all-party meeting convened by Mufti on May 9. Participants agreed to request the Union Government for a unilateral ceasefire during the month of Ramzan (mid-May) to the conclusion of the Amarnath Yatra in August, according to the Chief Minister, though the State unit of the BJP categorically stated that the proposal was discussed at the meeting but no final decision was taken. Its spokesperson added that the party was against the proposal as it is not in the “national interest” and that exterminating all terrorists as part of Operation All-Out was the priority. Well, the State unit of the BJP has been saved the blushes somewhat given the Centre has announced a conditional ceasefire, but by no means can the local unit of the party not be embarrassed given its stand was a reflection of the feeling among the non-Valley Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir.
That having been said, let us be level-headed and understand that the Government has obviously taken a political initiative to try and calm the increasing alienation in the Valley while at the same time ensuring that the military advantage gained by highly effective domination established by the Indian Army, BSF and State Police forces ably directed by excellent Intelligence inputs is not lost. It’s a tough balancing act to pull off, however, especially when confronted with ideologically indoctrinated inter-generational foes. That is the brutal truth. We needn’t look too far back; the Indo-Pak border/LoC ceasefire put in place in 2003 has not prevented infiltration or radicalization and the unilateral ceasefire announced by the then AB Vajpayee-led NDA Government in 2000, also during Ramzan and continuing into 2001 to back-up his courageous and inclusive Insaniyat, Jhumuriyat, Kashmiriyat approach also came a cropper as the terrorists used the respite to re-arm, re-focus and re-group.
The Narendra Modi Administration will also have to deal with the unease in the Army at the unilateralism of the decision, especially as there is no evidence to suggest that the jehadi tanzeems have given any assurances on an embargo on attacks from their side even through back channels. In fact, it is moot whether there are any terrorists, whether local or foreign, operating in the Valley who owe allegiance to organizations which have the command and control structures to ensure such a cessation from the secessionists’ side, even if there were one forthcoming, could be ensured. The situation in Kashmir is of a radicalised and increasingly entitled section of the youth across the class divide brainwashing their peers into believing in an Ummah over the nation-state ably aided and abetted by Islamabad. One can understand the desire and the responsibility of the State and Central Governments to try and pull back Indian citizens from the brink of self-harm and eventual elimination by the security forces (if they indulge in any violence whatsoever against the state and its representatives not to mention innocent civilians caught in the crossfire). But just as the Government has shown courage in announcing a conditional ceasefire, it needs to have the ruthlessness to call it off if there is no reciprocity. In the interim, close monitoring of the situation is vital to prevent the terrorists from using this breather to intensify their violent bigotry.