By Aasif Sultan
Srinagar: As the month of Ramazan is starting tomorrow, 17 May, the government of India has announced a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir, taking many people by surprise.
The move comes as government forces operating in Kashmir are busy with the ‘Operation All Out’ that was launched in 2017. Since 2017, 290 militants, including some top-ranking commander, and 93 soldiers have died in gunfights across the State. Also, 92 civilians have died at the hands of government forces or in ‘cross-firing’ while saving the militants trapped in ‘search-and-kill’ operations that are mostly conducted in south Kashmir.
Some of the top militant commanders who were killed during operation all-out included Saddam Paddar, Sameer Tiger, Abu Dujana, Jaish Chief Khalid Bhai, Sabzar Bhat, Bashir Lashkari, Junaid Matoo, Qayoom Najar, Noor Tral, Umar Khatab, Muzafar Ahmed Naiko alias Muza Molvi of Sopore, Abu Surag of Pakistan, Adil Ahmad Reshi of Bijbehara, Abid Ahmad Sheikh of Saktipora and Masood Ahmad Shah of Bewoora village, Abu Musaib, Qari Anas Abu Ali, Azaharuddin alias Ghazi Umar, Sajad Ahmed alias Babar, Mudasir Ahmad Tantray alias Asim, Wakeel Ahmad Thokar, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, Younus Lone, Mushtaq Ahmed, Muhammad Shafi Sherguri and Jahangir Ahmed Ganaie.
The unilateral ceasefire announcement brought back the memories of 2004 truce announced by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that was announced ten days ahead of Ramazan.
“The Centre asks Security Forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment,” the Home Ministry said on Twitter.
In a series of tweets, it said that Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed JK Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of Delhi’s decision.
“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties,” it said. However, the forces “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
However, militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba has firmly asserted that ceasefire is no option and no thought can be given on such compromise.
“We deem it as sin and disgrace to the sacrifices put up in the freedom struggle. We are the heirs of the martyrs. Opting for such choice is treachery to the blood of martyrs and there is no disgrace as such,” LeT Chief Mehmood Shah said in a statement to a local news agency.
Since the beginning of insurgency against the Indian rule in Kashmir in 1989, militants usually intensify their attacks during Ramazan against the government forces. During the 2017 Ramazan, for example, militants launched at least eight attacks on the police and paramilitary troops on 13 June across the Valley. Five of these attacks, which included grenade explosions, took place in south Kashmir, which has been the epicentre of new age militancy in the Valley since 2015. These attacks came in the backdrop of the 1437th anniversary of Battle of Badr, the first battle of Islam which took place on 17 March 624 AD, corresponding to 17 Ramazan 2 AH of the Islamic calendar.