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Delhi decides to cease fire for Ramazan

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Mehbooba gets shot in the arm; welcomes move

Srinagar/New Delhi, May: Conceding the demand of “unilateral ceasefire” put forth by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti after an all party meeting here last week, the Centre on Wednesday announced that government forces will not launch any operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramazan.

The announcement by the Home Ministry comes two days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.

Today’s decision has been taken to help the peace-loving Muslims observe Ramazan in a peaceful environment, a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

The Ministry said the government forces, however, reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah welcomed the Centre’s decision.

The move of the Centre is similar to the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO) announced by the first NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during Ramazan in 2000.

Today’s announcement comes a week after Mufti had said that the Central government should consider a unilateral ceasefire in the state starting from Ramazan till the completion of the Amarnath Yatra in August.

The fasting month of Ramazan is likely to start Thursday or Friday depending on sighting of the moon and ends on Eid.

However, the ministry did not mention whether the suspension of operations against the militants will continue during the Amarnath Yatra which will start on June 28 and conclude on August 26.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has informed Mufti of the Central government’s decision.

“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror,” the spokesperson said.

“The government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramazan peacefully and without any difficulties,” the spokesperson said.

During his Independence Day address last year, Modi had said bullets or abuses will not resolve the Kashmir issue and that it can be addressed by embracing every Kashmiri.

Modi had said his government is committed to restoring the lost glory of Kashmir and its status as ‘heaven on earth’.

The prime minister had said only a “handful of separatists” were resorting to different tactics to create problems in the state and asserted that there will be no soft approach towards terrorism.

The first NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had taken a similar initiative in 2000 by announcing a unilateral suspension of operations for Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramazan that year which continued for five months.

Almost all militant groups operating in the Valley in 2000 had rejected the government offer.

However, the NICO was discontinued after five months after increased violence, including an attack at the Srinagar Airport in which six militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba stormed it killing two security personnel and two civilians. All six militants were also killed in the subsequent action by government forces.

The Valley has witnessed the killing of over 55 militants including at least 27 locals this year.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the Centre’s decision to not launch any security operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the fasting month of Ramazan.

“The decision would go a long way in healing the wounds of people of the state who have been suffering the pain of violence and uncertainty for the past three decades or so. What best a time to go for this decision than the onset of holy month of Ramazan which promotes values of patience, self-restraint and tolerance,” Mehbooba said in a statement.

She said the “ceasefire” would also provide the necessary breather to the people who have been craving for it so long. She thanked the Centre, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the “historic decision”.

“This marks the beginning of listening of the story of pain of the state’s people by the country’s leadership,” she said.

The Chief Minister appealed to all stakeholders to reciprocate positively to the gesture aimed at giving relief to the people of the state who have seen enough “torment and tragedy”.

Mehbooba also thanked political parties who backed her idea of “cessation of hostilities” during a meeting convened by her recently.

Earlier the Chief Minister thanked the Centre in a post on Twitter.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire & would like to thank @narendramodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders & parties who participated in the All Party Meeting & helped build consensus towards this announcement (sic),” Mehbooba tweeted.

She said Ramazan is a harbinger of peace and such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful and amicable environment for a sustained dialogue.

Omar says, those who don’t respond will be seen as enemies of people

CPI(M), Cong, PDP welcome

Srinagar, May 16:  National Conference leader Omar Abdullah welcomed the move, saying that if the militants did not respond in kind to the Centre’s unilateral halt on operations during the month of Ramazan, they will be exposed as enemies of the people.

“On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind, they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people,” former chief minister said in a tweet.

Welcoming the decision, Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta described the initiative as a “significant gesture that will go a long way in restoring peace in the state”.

He has also hoped that all peace-loving forces will take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Centre and help in maintaining lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir, which is must for the overall development and prosperity of the state.

While welcoming the Center’s decision to announce a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir during Ramzan, CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami Wednesday hoped that not only for this month, but violence will end forever and it will help initiate a meaningful dialogue process.

“Silencing of guns on both sides is the need of the hour as hostilities can further derail the efforts leading towards formation of better understanding. There is also a need for all the stakeholders involved to shun the extreme and rigid positions in favour of some common middle ground which will take into consideration the genuine political aspirations of all the people involved,” he said in a statement.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice-president Mohammad Sartaj Madni  said the “unilateral ceasefire” during the holy month will pre-empt violence or any harm to innocent people and will lead to a new atmosphere of confidence building in the troubled state.

He said Jammu and Kashmir  has suffered immensely due to militancy-related violence and the holy month of Ramazan offers an opportunity to the state to make an appropriate assessment for an effective strategy that provides relief to masses.

He said the concept of a “welfare state” ceases to exist if  a common citizen is seen pitted against the state machinery.

The J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) while welcoming the decision, emphasized that all sides should put in strenuous efforts to restore peace beyond the month of Ramazan also in Valley.

The party spokesperson while commenting on the decision hoped that this initiative would go a long way in restoring confidence of the people and emphasized that all sides should work for restoration of peace and normalcy.

LeT rejects ceasefire

Srinagar, May 16: Militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on Wednesday rejected the Ramazan ceasefire announced by the Central government and called it a “drama”.

In a statement, LeT spokesman Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi while quoting the outfit chief Mahmood Shah, said that “ceasefire is no option and no thought can be given on such compromise.”

“We deem it as sin and disgrace to the sacrifices put up in the freedom struggle. We are the heirs of the martyrs. Opting for such choice is treachery to blood of martyrs and there is no disgrace as such,” he said in the statement.

He said the statement of Home Minister Rajnath Singh “is nothing but a drama”.

“It may be a wish of India and its few sympathizers and nothing else. Bipin Rawat (Indian Army chief) is of the opinion that he may threaten Kashmiris by imposing atrocities on unarmed students. It has neither happened before nor will it happen now. We were active in the resistance before and so we will be in future,” he said.

Shah, according to the spokesman, said that they favour the negotiations, but not in the presence of armed forces in the region.

“Our mothers are supporting us by picking up guns and we can never betray their trust. This indigenous freedom struggle is supported by the pure blood of martyrs and we can never let anyone betray it,” he said.

“We vow to the people that we will never betray their trust and the immense sacrifices they have gone through in the freedom struggle. We will fight to the last of our blood in our struggle against illegal occupation. India shall soon witness the wrath of the people. We will continue the armed struggle until and unless Jammu Kashmir had won its freedom,” he said.

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