Separatists say Ramzan move a ‘farce’, ask Centre to spell out road map
Moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the one-month halt does not reflect a policy change towards Kashmir.india Updated: May 17, 2018 23:56 IST
A day after the Indian government ordered security forces to suspend counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, senior separatist leaders declined to welcome the move and said the Centre needed to do more.
Moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also the valley’s head cleric, said in a phone interview that a month of “no action is a farce’’, while chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front , Yasin Mallik, described the decision to suspend operations as a “mazaak” (joke).
Civilians were more optimistic, hoping the suspension of military operations will last beyond Ramzan, help improve the situation, and lead to talks between the government and separatist leaders.
But serving and retired army officers who have had stints in the troubled state felt the one-month halt would have no impact on the army’s long-term operational strategy in the Valley.
Some said only militants would benefit from the political move, which came on a request by J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The halt to military operations comes amid widespread unrest that has rocked the Valley, where shutdowns have become routine and the government often closes schools and colleges. As many as 41 people — including militants, civilians and security personnel — were killed in violence across Kashmir in April. This month, 23 people have died violently, including a tourist who died on May 7 in a stone pelting incident near Srinagar.
When asked if he would welcome the step, Mirwaiz said the one-month halt does not reflect a policy change towards Kashmir. “Even if we call it a good step, government has to be clear about what next. That seriousness is missing,’’ he added.
“What is the road map ahead (of the suspension)?. Is the government of India doing us a favour by saying we won’t kill you for a month but will start killing you again once the holy month of Ramzan is over? Will it be bullets and pellets again after this?’’ Mirwaiz asked.
Mirwaiz and Malik agreed that a dialogue between the Indian government and the Kashmiri leadership and tripartite talks (also involving Pakistan) could be the only solution to the problem.
“Whether it’s the political movement or the militancy, this is all an offshoot of the Kashmir issue; you can’t ignore the main issue and address the offshoot,’’ Malik said.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani joined the Mirwaiz and Malik in releasing a statement that said it was illogical and unfortunate to “offer relaxation in killings for one month and then restart it with impunity”
“The people of Kashmir, as a peace loving nation, believe in permanent peace rather than a relaxation in killing for one month. People want a permanent halt on war thrusted by India,” they said in the statement.
A Kashmiri academic said he wasn’t surprised that the separatists were sceptical, calling it “ an indication of the way people have been pushed to the wall.”
“It (separatist stance towards the suspension) has a certain validity but the question to be asked is: have we reached a point where even a ceasefire announcement has become irrelevant from one viewpoint or the other,” said professor Siddiq Wahid, former vice chancellor of the Islamic University of Kashmir.
J&K police chief SP Vaid called the suspension of operations was an opportunity for the families of the militants to persuade them to give up arms. “Taking advantage of fresh initiative of GOI (government of India) during Ramadan, families of local militants should urge their sons to leave path of violence & join them to live peacefully . Wish them good luck,’’ Vaid wrote on Twitter.
Indian army officers, both serving and retired, do not foresee a change in future operational strategy in Kashmir.
“A ceasefire inspires an environment that has hope for both sides. But when that is skewed against the army on ground…such periods are exploited by militants to end up in a situation (that can be described as) ‘Disadvantage Army’”, said former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (retd).
A temporary halt in operations only helps militants, he added.
Residents in the Valley were more enthusiastic, hoping the suspension of counter-insurgency operations will stretch beyond Ramzan.
“This is a welcome step but it should continue beyond Ramzan as well. Militants, civilians and security forces are dying here every day. Bloodshed is no solution,” said Irfan Ahmad, a garment shop owner in Lal Chowk.
Prominent hotelier Faiz Bakshi said talks with the separatists can be meaningful.
“The ceasefire can obviously restore some peace if it is enforced in letter and spirit, and when no bullets are fired on stone-pelters. But one thing is important -- it should be accompanied by initiating talks with stakeholders, mainly Hurriyat,” said Bakshi, a former president of the Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurant Owners Federation.