For The Ceasefire To Deliver

Kashmir has witnessed a marked decrease in violence ever since the unilateral ceasefire went into effect on May 15.  The fact was stressed by the security brass in their presentation to the union home minister Rajnath Singh during his recent visit to the state. The home minister was reportedly told that there has been a 70 percent drop in the violence. Only major exception has been the killing of a civilian and a soldier in a militancy related incident in South Kashmir. Earlier four girls were injured during Army’s firing at the people objecting to its Iftar party at village Dreed, Kalipora in Shopian. There has otherwise been no Cordon and Search Operation in South Kashmir, the hotbed of Kashmir’s militancy.  Similarly, central and north Kashmir have remained calm.

Though it is still premature to predict the course of the current initiative, the truce announced by the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000 for nearly five months had witnessed a sharp rise in the level of violence. An estimated 800 persons were killed in the period. The militant outfits comprising Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashker-i-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad had rejected the ceasefire terming it drama, much like they have done now.

In the ongoing ceasefire, however, the borders momentarily heated up, even though there is calm now. But the centre has so far failed to build upon the truce by extending a political outreach to the dissident groups. This state of affairs hardly bodes well for the success of ceasefire. At the same time, separatist political and militant groups in the Valley have also rejected the offer – albeit, the militants have so far by and large kept their side of bargain by not frequently firing on the security forces.  There have been some gun snatchings from the police though, and a few attacks on the army camps.

Where do we go from here? Situation is uncertain. There are apprehensions among the security establishment that the ceasefire could give militants breather to “regroup, rearm and re-launch the attacks”. There are apprehensions about the infiltration too, although the ceasefire is not applicable on the border. On his visit to the state in the wake of the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire, the Army chief General Bipin Rawat called upon the Army to plug borders and not allow the militants to enter and join their local counterparts. But this is easier said than done. The tough terrain and the deep ravines along the border make it impossible for the  troops to completely seal the border.

At the same time, the home minister during his visit hasn’t cleared the ambiguity in centre’s stand on dialogue with Hurriyat.  So, the gains of the ceasefire aren’t apparent now. For that to happen there is a need for the centre to upgrade the Confidence Building Measure to include a political outreach, for example, a direct offer of talks to separatists, including even to Pakistan. This could build stakes in a conducive environment for the talks for all the stake-holders.

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