“I hope that our gesture will be fully appreciated… all violence in the state and infiltration across the Line of Control and the International Border will cease and peace will prevail.”
Remember how Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramazan in August, 2000. The then prime minister of India had averred: “Mine was a sincere appeal for cooperation to bring to an end the long trail of violence, which has claimed so many precious lives and inflicted untold misery on all sections of the state’s population – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs alike.” It was received so well that the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, Syed Abdullah Bukhari was moved. He mustered courage to phone the Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin, to tell him to stop violence in the Valley.
That the government of India has again declared a conditional ceasefire during the holy month of Ramazan is a glad tiding for the beleaguered people of Kashmir in the beginning of Ramazan. The Centre has asked the security forces to not launch operations in the region during the next thirty days of Ramazan in which Muslims will be observing fasts and constant prayers. The announcement added that the government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and “help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties”. However, security forces reserve right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people, the statement said.
This has come not only as a renewed ray of hope for the distressed Kashmiri people but it also echoes a compassionate view that prevails in the larger part of the country. Therefore, it will be ironic if the same is not reciprocated in kind by the militants in Kashmir or the military players in Pakistan. This conciliatory practice also requires the Islamic clergy and Ulema in Kashmir not to sanction any religiously-motivated militant action during the holy month of Ramadan.
Tellingly, many militants in Kashmir choose to wreak havoc particularly on the 17th Ramazan, the eve of Ghazwat ul Badr— an Islamic battle of defensive nature popularly known as “Jang-e-Badr” in Urdu. It was fought by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) against the oppressive Meccan pagans who wronged him along with his followers, inflicting severe injuries upon all those who accepted Islam. But with wilful misinterpretation of this historic event, the 17th day of Ramzan is treated by terror groups particularly in South Kashmir as a call to arms and not mercy and reconciliation. Deplorably enough, much against what Ramazan is all about, the warmongers in Kashmir celebrate this occasion by unleashing violence against their perceived ‘enemies of Islam’. Only in the last Ramazan in June, 2017, nearly six attacks came in a span of four hours on on the 17th day of Ramazan, while intelligence input about terror attacks and all necessary precautions were taken. In fact, this strange form of terror in Ramazan is not an isolated phenomenon in Kashmir’s history. In the 90s and the early 2000s, Kashmir has witnessed far more brutal attacks around Ramzan as compared to the recent attacks during Ramazan in Kashmir.
It should be seen in this historical backdrop that the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has rejected the Ramazan ceasefire offer calling it a “drama”. In a statement, LeT spokesman Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi while quoting the outfit chief Mahmood Shah, said that “ceasefire is no option and no thought can be given on such compromise.”
Now it is for the cognizant and conscious people of Kashmir to ponder and fathom as to who would be the real ‘enemies of Islam’ if the ceasefire offer is not reciprocated in kind. Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of J&K has rightly stated that if terrorists fail to respond to the ceasefire offer they will stand exposed as the “enemies of the people”.
In fact, not only the political leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, but even ordinary people in Kashmir are hailing this decision as a hugely welcome peace initiative and a step forward towards the resolution of the conflict in Kashmir. Now the onus for any act of violence will be completely on the militant outfits. There seems to be a public consensus that any militant attempt to provoke violence and sabotage this historic peace measure will be seen as the ‘real animosity’ towards the people of Kashmir.
Of course, the goodwill ceasefire is bonhomie and not an assurance to completely end or mitigate the cycle of violence but it does offer the required space for political mobility on the peace process in the valley.
Given that the decision has been taken to cooperate and help the peace-loving Muslims observe Ramzan—the 30-day-long festival—in a peaceful environment, it should be welcomed as a great bonhomie. Now, it is incumbent on the Kashmiri Muslims to segregate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless militancy and violence. Thus, the trust deficit between New Delhi and Kashmir which has greatly widened for decades can be minimized now.
Nonetheless, such a well-intended and well-thought-out initiative for going ahead with peace in the valley will bear no fruits if it eludes the much-needed policy to rehabilitate the surrendered militants. It can provide the ceasefire greater stability.
A young social worker and a Kashmiri Sufi activist, Affan Yesvi has also raised this pertinent point for this ceasefire to be successful. He rightly pointed out that J&K needs more than just Ramzan ceasefire and that Kashmir conflict can’t be solved through machismo alone. He wrote that in addition to this appreciable move, which has been welcomed in the beleaguered Valley, the Centre must also announce a policy to give the militants safe passage for surrender. In addition to “Operation All Out” against militancy, a parallel policy must be created by the Centre for “Operation Comeback”, he averred.
The Kashmiri Sufi activist tells us that in the last few months, many young militants came back to the loving fold of their families after appeals made by their parents or other family members. “There is scope for others too to give up the gun. But there has to be a full-fledged strategy to formulate this initiative as a policy, and channelize the militants’ safe and honourable return to mainstream life. There is hope in many quarters that the Centre can act magnanimously and allow space for greater political accommodation in Kashmir”, he writes.