Ramazan ceasefire with riders in J&K

Mehbooba Mufti

New Delhi: The Centre has declared a unilateral but conditional ceasefire with militants in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy Ramazan month, handing the alliance government led by a grateful Mehbooba Mufti a fresh lease of life.

"The government has issued instructions to the security forces and army not to undertake offensive operations during the period of Ramazan in Jammu and Kashmir," the Centre said in a statement, a week after the defence minister had indicated that the iron-fist policy would continue.

However, the statement added: "If it is essential for protecting the life of the common people, the security forces will be compelled to take appropriate action."

Sources in the Union home ministry said the ceasefire would not apply along the Line of Control and the International Border in order to guard against infiltration.

Mehbooba welcomed the Centre's decision. "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," the chief minister tweeted.

The militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba, rejected the ceasefire, calling it a compromise that does not deserve any thought. Other such groups also usually toe its line.

The Centre justified its announcement by saying it "has been trying to create an environment free of terror and violence to enable the Muslim brothers to observe Ramazan in a peaceful manner and in conducive environment so that terrorists do not exploit their religious sentiments".

The Union home ministry said minister Rajnath Singh had informed Mehbooba of the decision.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last week said the army had to be firm to deal with militants in the Valley. The Jammu and Kashmir BJP had also opposed Mehbooba's ceasefire call, saying militants might regroup.

Several security analysts and politicians had criticised the government's tough stand in Kashmir, advocating dialogue with all stakeholders to find an answer to the cycle of violence in the state.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP) 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."

Sources said the government would carefully monitor the situation. "In case of any violence, a decision to call off the ceasefire will be taken by the political leadership," an official said.


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