Srinagar, May 16: Centre on Wednesday asked the forces not to launch operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramadhan. However, forces have been given the right to retaliate “if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
“The Centre asks security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadhan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramadhan in a peaceful environment,” Home Ministry said on Twitter.
In a series of tweets, it said that home minister Rajnath Singh has informed the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of the Centre’s decision.
“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramadhan peacefully and without any difficulties,” it said.
However, the forces “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”
The announcement comes just a week after Mehbooba Mufti convened an all-party meeting in Srinagar which called for ceasefire during Ramadhan.
Meanwhile, the Centre’s decision to announce the Ramadhan ceasefire has come after hectic lobbying by the J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and her team of officials, who finally succeeded in persuading Centre to announce the decision.
Top sources in the government said that Chief Minister repeatedly requested the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to announce the Ramadhan ceasefire as a biggest CBM to earn public support in the holy month of fasting. “After CM, Chief Secretary of J&K and many officials of the Home department also frequented Delhi to see progress on Mehbooba’s appeal. And finally, it bore fruit today,” the source revealed.
Sources claimed that few days before the high level meeting was held in New Delhi at Prime Minister’s office between the top officials of the MHA, top security officials and the officials from the Jammu and Kashmir government. “The idea of a ceasefire was discussed at a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s office few days before. The meeting of top security officials was attended by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, and some top officials of the state government and the police,” sources claimed. Sources said that after the meeting the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was informed by the centre that it will take appropriate call on the Ramadhan ceasefire proposal.
However sources said that the union government was uncomfortable with the “unilateral ceasefire”. “If the suggestion is to cease operations against militants that’s not going to happen until they stop activities. Since Ramadhan is a holy month for Muslims, they, militants should announce a unilateral ceasefire. If they stop killing civilians and attacking security forces, operations against them will automatically stop,” sources quoting the meeting said.
Meanwhile, Separatist leaders remained tight-lipped but the common man was overjoyed.
“Believe me, I have not been able sleep in peace during the last many months due to the impeding danger of an encounter in our area. The decision has come as a great relief and ordinary Kashmiris like me only hope the decision is reciprocated by militants,” said a resident of Pulwama district who did not want to be named.
“This was the most immediate requirement for indicating a mindset favouring a dialogue rather than violence. Ramadan has created another ray of hope for us,” said Firdous Ahmad, a shopkeeper in the city’s uptown area.
Transporters, shopkeepers, businessmen and even pavement sellers were happy.
“We need a break and this could not have come at a better time than Ramadan. If the government has walked two steps, let the separatists walk at least half a step. It is only by taking such small steps that the march to peace and honour can start,” said Shakeel Ahmad, a businessman in the old city area of Srinagar.
The decision not to initiate combat operations against militants during Ramadan comes barely two days before Prime Minister Modi visits the state on May 19.