Conditional suspension of operations in J&K during Ramzan: Centre

New Delhi, May 16: Security forces will not launch any operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan 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 security forces, however, reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
The move of the Centre is similar to the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO) announced by the first NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during Ramzan in 2000.
Today’s announcement comes a week after Mufti had said that the central government should consider a unilateral ceasefire in the state starting from Ramzan till the completion of the Amarnath yatra in August.
The fasting month of Ramzan 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 Amarnath yatra which will start on June 28 and conclude on August 26.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed Mufti 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 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 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 Atal Bihari 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 terrorists 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 valley 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.
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant, however, dubbed the announcement as “nothing but drama”.
A UNI report from the summer capital said the ruling Peoples Democratic Party termed the decision a big relief for the people of Kashmir, who had borne the brunt of hostilities and violence for decades.
PDP General Secretary Mansoor Hussain Soharwardhy said the step should be seized as a vital opportunity by the people who have been yearning for peace and reconciliation for long.
He added that the GoI has not only acceded to the plea made by Ms Mufti but has also upheld the sanctity and sacred nature of the month of Ramazan, which every year comes with the universal message of peace, harmony and brotherhood.
The PDP General Secretary said it was high time for Pakistan and other stakeholders to take a stand on the step announced by the Central government which could prove to be a confidence building measure, leading to a meaningful and result oriented dialogue process that has the capacity to take Jammu and Kashmir out of the vicious cycle of mayhem, bloodshed and uncertainty.
‘By virtue of such an important decision, the political groups irrespective of their ideologies and stands can come together and play a constructive role in saving precious lives from getting lost in oblivion. There is a dire need for all the political groups to get Kashmir out of the crises and exhibit assiduousness towards the younger generation of the state. This is the time when we can show to the world that we care for our people and want them to live in peace and tranquillity with dignity and honour,’ Mansoor said.
He said that it has to be understood that the guns have never resolved any issue across the globe and that it is the dialogue by virtue of which the disputes world over have been addressed and amicably resolved.
Mansoor said Pakistan must respond positively to such a decision and reciprocate with positive approach so that peace that has so been remained elusive between the two countries could become a living reality.
The PDP General Secretary also took a dig at the opposition National Conference, stating that the party which has the history of betrayals and backstabbing the people at crucial junctures, stands once again exposed before the masses all across.
He also expressed hope that the announcement will act as a milestone in the political process and measures of reconciliation and dialogue will follow.
Mansoor said time has come when one can look forward to witness the felicity of peace in the region and witness the younger generation striving to build the state afresh instead of treading on the path of destruction and chaos. (PTI/UNI)