Stone-pelting comes down during Ramzan ceasefire, Centre reviews gains
The government is carefully reviewing the gains made during an unilateral cessation of security operations during Ramzan in Jammu and Kashmir before taking a call on an extension.
As part of the process, Union home minister Rajnath Singh will be in Srinagar on Thursday to sit with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, governor NN Vohra and key security officials.
The data available with security agencies shows during the first 16 days of Ramzan in 2017, there were 195 incidents of stone pelting in the Valley whereas in the first 16 days of Ramzan this year, the incidents came down to 39.
“We have confirmation of about only five boys from the Valley who joined the ranks of militants in this period of halt on operations,” said a Srinagar-based security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
More than one local a day was joining the ranks of militants in April and early May.
“This year alone, around 90 young men joined the ranks of militants in the Valley. Among them 43 were from South Kashmir which is hotbed of militancy. Between April 1 and May 31, we understand there were 65 boys who went missing to join the ranks of militants. But the Ramzan halt on operations has brought the number of new recruits significantly down,” said an Anantnag-based based field commander who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The commander agreed that given the cessation of operations, it was frustrating for security forces to not act on intelligence on the movement of militants.
“Our ‘cordon and search’ operations (CASOs) are off. We used to have four to five CASOs every 24 hours before the operations were halted. We have given huge respite to militants just before the crucial Amarnath Yatra slated to begin from June 28. (Even if) the Ramzan ceasefire is not extended beyond Eid, we will get only 11 days to ensure that militants do not harm Yatra,” this person added.
There are currently around 144 active militants in South Kashmir , he said.
“Among them 131 are local boys and 13 are foreign terrorists. Among the local boys, the most, 84 are affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen. The militancy is now predominantly local in character,” the commander added.
Many say the predominantly local character of militancy forced the government to announce a halt on operations.
“Funerals of local militants killed in security operations had become the biggest reason for new recruits joining militancy. We saw fathers of dead militants coming together and raising hands together. Even a mother of dead militant was handed over an assault rifle and her fingers were put on trigger to fire. But with halt on operations there are no frequent funerals and no memorial services,” said a key government official who is a part of the review process.
The last time a unilateral cessation of operations was declared was in 2000; it began on November 28 and extended three times – December 28, January 27 and February 27. It remained in force for 185 days and the level of violence was much higher than this time around.
CPI(M) member of the J&K assembly MY Tarigami said violence has adversely affected Kashmir society, its ethos and day-to-day life and therefore the ceasefire should be persisted with even if there were risks involved.
“The Ramzan ceasefire has provided some relief to the common man. Despite provocations this initiative has generated a ray of hope which should not in no way be clouded even if some risk is involved,” said Tarigami.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief SP Vaid said the recruitment of new militants is still a matter of concern. “We are working with families to bring them back to mainstream. The overall recruitment of militants is almost the same as that last year. It is too early to say whether the number of new recruitments is down due to halt on operations. We are adhering to a ceasefire but militants are not,” said Vaid.
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