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Centre examines Jammu and Kashmir ceasefire extension, decision not before Sunday

An official said Bharatiya Janata Party members from the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the party had conveyed to the Centre that the spate of attacks in Kashmir were reason enough to suspend the ceasefire.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2018 13:00 IST
Rajesh Ahuja and Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Rajesh Ahuja and Smriti Kak Ramachandran
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Ceasefire,Jammu and Kashmir,Border areas
A ceasefire was announced by the Union government on May 16 so that people could observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment. (HT File Photo)

The Centre might consider taking a “long-term view” on extending the suspension of operations against militants despite a spike in violence in Kashmir, government officials familiar with the matter said on Friday even as home minister Rajnath Singh said he would not comment on the matter before Sunday.

The Valley has witnessed a violent week. On Saturday, a 20-year-old man was killed in clashes between police and civilians after Eid prayers in south Kashmir’s Anantnag. A teenager was allegedly killed in army firing during protests in Pulwama on Friday. On Thursday, senior journalist and editor of newspaper ‘Rising Kashmir’ Shujaat Bukhari was gunned down by suspected militants in state capital Srinagar.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not rule out an extension in the ‘ceasefire’, which was announced by the Union government on May 16 so that people could “observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment”.

Another person aware of the developments, however, said another school of thought was of the view that a ceasefire extension would be a bad idea because of security concerns.

He said that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members from the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the party had conveyed to the Centre that the spate of attacks in Kashmir were reason enough to suspend the ceasefire.

A Rashtiya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary, who asked not to be named, also described the ceasefire as a confidence-building measure that had not worked.

A senior government official said Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre’s special representative to Jammu and Kashmir, was scheduled to visit Srinagar on Monday as part of a larger strategy to open dialogue with the separatist leadership.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh — who briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday evening about the developments in Kashmir, where thousands were mourning Bukhari’s death — told reporters he would not comment on the ceasefire decision before Sunday. The prime minister chaired a high-level meeting late on Friday on the security situation in the state, which was attended by the home minister, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and senior officials of intelligence and security agencies, officials said.

Bukhari was killed along with his personal security officers by unidentified gunmen on Thursday evening, as he left his office in Srinagar for iftar. Police have called the killing of the 50-year-old editor of English daily Rising Kashmir a terror attack.

The murder of the journalist and that of army jawan Aurangzeb, who was headed home for Eid on Thursday, came shortly before the Centre’s Ramzan ceasefire was due to end, triggering a debate on whether the government should resume operations against militants in Kashmir. A senior government official involved in deliberations on the Ramzan ceasefire said when the Centre decided to halt operations against militants in the Valley, it was not keeping in mind the short-term gains of the move.

“The ultra-radicalisation of youth in the Valley is a reality and the situation should not reach a point of no return. There have been some visible gains during the Ramzan halt on operations. So far, only 13 boys have joined the ranks of militants during Ramzan… before the halt on operation, more than one boy a day joined militancy,” he said.

“Only half-a-dozen serious terror-related incidents have occurred during the halt on operations, including the killing of Bukhari, army man Aurangzeb, two policemen and one special police officer. No doubt, these incidents are a huge setback to the peace process. But we have to take a long-term view, as the government is planning to conduct panchayat elections, too, in the state in August,” the officer added. He said one month was too short a span to gauge the effect of the ceasefire.

The joint resistant leadership of separatists in the Valley comprising Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Syed Ali Shah Geelani is planning to meet next week to formulate a response to the offer of talks by the government, said a separatist leader on the condition of anonymity.

“But Bukhari’s killing has cast a shadow on everything,” said the separatist leader.

A statement released by the Mirwaiz said he demanded an “international and impartial probe to nab Shujaat’s killers”. He said a joint investigation commission “comprising members from India, Pakistan, militant leadership, the Hurriyat and the people of Kashmir could be formed to expose those behind such heinous crimes.”

First Published: Jun 16, 2018 07:26 IST