STATE TIMES NEWS
New Delhi: Security forces will not launch any operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan, a move seen as a bid to bring peace and provide a conducive atmosphere in the restive valley.
The announcement by the Home Ministry comes two days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.
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.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah welcomed the Centre’s decision.
“The decision would go a long way in healing the wounds of people of the state who have been suffering the pain of violence and uncertainty for the past three decades or so.
What best a time to go for this decision than the onset of holy month of Ramadhan which promotes values of patience, self-restraint and tolerance,” Mehbooba said in a statement.
She said the ceasefire would also provide the necessary breather to the people who have been craving for it so long. She thanked the Centre particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the “historic decision”.
“This marks the beginning of listening of the story of pain of the state’s people by the country’s leadership,” she said.
The chief minister appealed to all stakeholders to reciprocate positively to the gesture aimed at giving relief to the people of the state who have seen enough “torment and tragedy”. Mehbooba also thanked political parties who backed her idea of ‘cessation of hostilities’ during a meeting convened by her recently.
Earlier the chief minister thanked the Centre in a post on Twitter.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire & would like to thank @narendramodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders & parties who participated in the All Party Meeting & helped build consensus towards this announcement (sic),” Mehbooba tweeted.
She said Ramzan 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.
Abdullah said if the militants did not respond in kind to the Centre’s unilateral halt on operations during the month of Ramzan, they will be exposed as enemies of the people.
“On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind, they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people,” he said in a tweet.
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.
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