Looking back: The ceasefire in Kashmir in 2000 saw more violence but lasted longer
The month-long halt on counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for the month of Ramzan will end after Eid, which was celebrated on Saturday.
The government is discussing whether to extend the halt or to resume operations, given the recent spike in violence including Thursday’s killing of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar. HT looks back at 2000-2001, the only other time when security operations were put on hold in the state, in a decision taken by the government of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Vajpayee government, in consultation with the J&K government then led by Farooq Abdullah, announced a unilateral halt to operations against militants on November 28, 2000. The ceasefire was extended on December 28 and then on January 27 and February 27. It ended on May 30 after remaining in force for 185 days. It was called NICO, or non-initiation of combat operations.
NICO was tagged along with the announcement of the start of a political dialogue with “all sections of peace leaving people of the state” including those who were outside J&K. The government appointed KC Pant, who was then deputy chairman of the planning commission, as its representative in the dialogue. NICO was enforced after a July 2000 ceasefire announcement by Abdul Majeed Dar, the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, in the Kashmir valley. In the first week of August, Hizb members had a well-publicised meeting with then Union home secretary Kamal Pandey in Srinagar. But within at few days, Hizb’s top leader Syed Salahuddin called off the overture, saying Pakistan too should be part of the dialogue.
In the first month of the ceasefire, 96 attacks on security forces claimed the lives of 45 security personnel. Ninety-six civilians and 61 terrorists too were killed in the period.
During the entire duration of 185 days, 781 attacks on security forces took place, resulting in the killing of 258 personnel.In the same period, 535 civilians and 630 terrorists too were killed. Fidayeen or suicide attacks on the airport as well as the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar took place in the period.
Militancy in the Valley was largely driven by terrorists sent by Pakistan. some of whom were battle-hardened fighters of the Afghan war.
The Dar overture also didn’t last long. Within a year of announcing the ceasefire, Dar was ‘expelled’ by the Hizbul Mujahideen as he held on to his stand that the Kashmir issue should be resolved peacefully. He was assassinated in 2003. The political dialogue initiated by KC Pant didn’t make much headway. The first meeting between separatist leadership and then deputy prime minister LK Advani could take place only in January 2004 and three months later, the government was voted out of power
The 2000 experiment and its extensions and outcome will have a significant bearing on any decision that the government will announce on Sunday — whether it extends the halt on operations in Jammu and Kashmir or decides to resume them.
The fate of future negotiations between the centre’s current Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma and the separatist leadership too depends on the government’s announcement.
Preliminary data shows that around five dozen violent incidents took place in the Valley during the halt on operations which started in May; a majority of these were grenade attacks.
There also have been calls to extend the ceasefire till the Amarnath Yatra which kicks off on July 28.
The number of serious terror attacks was limited to half-a-dozen and recruitment in militant ranks came down to 13 from an average one a day in the preceding two months.