| An anti-personnel landmine
Srinagar, Oct. 18: Kashmir can hope to be free of death traps.
An umbrella group of militants has pledged not to use anti-personnel mines. The United Jehad Council will also “avoid grenades or other explosives in public places”. Both devices, among the most frequently used, claim countless civilian lives other than those they are targeted at.
The pledge is binding on five outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which enjoy the status of observers within the council.
The decision was taken on October 16, a day after the three-day Id ceasefire called by the militants ended, but the statement was released today by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the winner of the Peace Nobel in 1997.
Such a ban is rare in the country, where only some insurgent groups in the Northeast like the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) have vowed not to use landmines.
Council chairman Syed Salahuddin said the use of anti-personnel mines was equivalent to blind terror, prohibited under Islam.
“We shall conduct our struggle for self-determination guided by the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1949 for the protection of victims of armed conflicts and the 1977 additional protocol on victims of international armed conflicts.”
In its statement, the council said its members would not use any “anti-personnel mines or other victims activated explosive devices that can be triggered by the proximity, activity or contact of a human being or animal”.
Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, a member of the global anti-landmine organisation, confirmed the council had pledged to abide by the norms of the Geneva convention. “It (the ban) implies that they would not use grenades or other explosives in public places,” Moser-Puangsuwan told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi.
Moser-Puangsuwan said members of the council had made “limited use of anti-personnel mines in the past”.
“The Indian Army reported seizures of these mines in the past but stopped making such claims three years back,” he said, suggesting that the death traps were less used now.
But today’s announcement has not ended fears because many pockets on both sides of the Line of Control are heavily mined. Since India and Pakistan have not signed the global anti-mine treaty, many fear the traps will still lurk.
The pledge is part of efforts by the council to shed its “terror” organisation image and project itself as a group that is on the path to reconciliation. The softening has been caused by pressure on terror outfits after the 9/11 attacks and, more recently, by a lull in infiltration by Pakistani militants.
There are other reasons, too. The Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the largest group in the council, has seen its ranks depleted by the offensive launched by security forces.