The United Jihad Council (UJC), a Muzaffarabad-based amalgam of 14 militant groups, has declared a three-day ceasefire across the Valley from the eve of Id-ul-Fitr, which falls on October 13 or 14. This is the first time the UJC has declared a unilateral ceasefire in the state since the start of militancy in 1989.
Council spokesperson Syed Sadaqat Hussain, in a statement faxed to newspaper offices in Srinagar, said the ceasefire would commence on October 12 and last till the evening of October 14. “We don’t want to give Indian security forces any chance to harass and torture our people on the eve of Id,” he said, alleging that the forces often tried to harass the people under the ruse of a search operation and or a staged encounter.
“All components of the UJC have been directed not to go for any combat action against Indian troops on October 12, 13 and 14,” Hussain said. He added that the ceasefire decision was taken at a meeting of the supreme council of the UJC under the leadership of Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen and chairman of the UJC.
Salahuddin had offered a ceasefire with security forces at the beginning of Ramzan last month but the government had not responded. The past three weeks of Ramzan have witnessed fierce encounters between militants and security forces across the Valley, leaving around 50 militants and a dozen security personnel, including two army majors, dead.
Driving home the point that this is a temporary ceasefire, the statement, quoting Salahuddin, read: “We are satisfied with the attacks on Indian troops in the month of Ramzan. The militants are united. Our strategy and objective is very clear. But the political leadership of Kashmir needs to get united on the slogan of right to self-determination.”
He also reiterated that a strong-armed movement is imperative to “force India to leave Kashmir”.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) president Mahbooba Mufti welcomed the ceasefire declaration and asked the Centre to respond to it positively. “Gun is not the solution. It is good that the UJC has declared a ceasefire. Let the central government also come forward with a positive response,” she said.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who heads the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, said the ceasefire should been declared much earlier. “But better late than never. We hope the Centre will seize the opportunity and respond in a responsible and positive way.”
However, Syed Ali Geelani, chairman of the hardline Hurriyat faction, said: “It is the decision of the militant leadership. We have nothing to do with it.”
Residents of Srinagar welcomed the ceasefire. “The truce is very good news. I really hope India reciprocates the offer,” said shopkeeper Mohammed Yusuf, adding that he was praying for a peaceful Id.
However, New Delhi was not impressed. A senior official suggested the security establishment did not see much purpose in responding to the jihad council’s unilateral truce call. “Why should we take a considered opinion just because the UJC has announced a ceasefire,” he asked. As far as harassment of people is concerned, he said, the security forces are sensitive to the ground situation.
With inputs from agencies