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The Centre’s ceasefire in Kashmir will provide just the balm the wounded Valley needs

The gesture during Ramzan is an important political outreach that comes at a time when the Valley has been caught in an endless cycle of violence

editorials Updated: May 16, 2018 19:03 IST
Centre,Kashmir,Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Security personnel stand guard during an encounter between security forces and militants at Drabgam in Pulwama District of South Kashmir. (PTI)

The Centre has extended an olive branch to the Kashmiris by announcing a ceasefire, albeit a conditional one, ahead of the holy month of Ramzan. Security forces have been asked not to launch any operations for the next thirty days, although they have been told they can retaliate if attacked. The decision, announced by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, should be welcomed and reciprocated. It is an important political outreach that comes at a time when the Valley has been caught in an endless cycle of killings leading to more locals joining militant organisations, and more killings.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shares power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), recently held an all-party meeting, out of which, the idea of a ceasefire was born. She asked the Narendra Modi government to take a leaf out of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s book. Vajpayee, who too headed an NDA government, in December 2000, announced a similar ceasefire. He was forced to call it off after a few months. This time around, the army was opposed to a ceasefire, as was the defence ministry.

The Centre, though, seems to have been convinced by the ground realities in the state. Young Kashmiris have been leaving the comfort of their classrooms to disappear into the mountains and resurface with guns. April alone saw 28 locals joining militancy. The number is the highest in any given month, since the killing of militant poster boy Burhan Wani in 2016. In other worrying signals, locals, women included, have been rushing to encounter sites to disrupt security operations. The turnouts at the funerals of militants too have been inordinately high.

The ceasefire will provide just the balm the wounded Valley needs. It will help change a narrative that has been dominated by the security forces and the army in particular. Army chief, General Bipin Rawat recently re-endorsed the hard line, indicating that security forces “don’t enjoy” killing but that if anyone wants to “fight us then we will fight you with all our force”.

The Centre has clearly taken a political decision and announced a cessation of armed hostilities. The announcement may not immediately silence the militants’ weapons but the government must push ahead and walk the extra mile, in the pursuit of peace that has eluded the state for decades. The ceasefire provides a chance for the atmosphere of death and despair to give way to some hope and optimism. The announcement also sets the context for Prime Minister Modi, who is expected to visit the state later this week, to follow up and reach out to the people.

First Published: May 16, 2018 19:02 IST