This moment in the Valley

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Goodwill gestures, like the unilateral ceasefire, can be rewarding — but only if all stakeholders are engaged.

BY: M M Ansari

The Centre has acceded to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister-led all party demand for a unilateral ceasefire during Ramzan and the Amarnath Yatra. At a time when the cycle of death and destruction seems unending, a gesture of compassion and love is the best option. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti steered the group of mainstream parties in putting pressure on alliance partner BJP to follow the ideals of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had announced a ceasefire in November 2000 during Ramzan with a view to narrowing the trust deficit between the Centre and the state as well as to prepare a congenial atmosphere for engaging all stakeholders for restoring peace in the Valley. The militants had welcomed it as Vajpayee had assured the Kashmiris that an attempt would be made to resolve all contentious issues within the ambit of humanity.

Now, the BJP leaders have expressed their scepticism about the success of the idea of ceasefire as advocated by Mufti. They ignore the fact that prolonged use of brutal force by the security forces is no solution to the complex political problem. Successive army chiefs and security experts have also acknowledged the fact that the forces are not meant to fight the youth who exercise their democratic rights.The ceasefire announced by Vajpayee lasted for five months. The outcome was encouraging as encounters between the security forces and militants had drastically declined, as had the loss of lives of civilians and security personnel.

Unfortunately, those gains were frittered away because Pakistan was not diplomatically engaged in the peace process nor was the process itself meticulously planned for execution. It follows that goodwill gestures may prove rewarding only if all the stakeholders are duly engaged to find an amicable solution to the contentious issues. In fact, a well-conceived and effective execution of the ceasefire may lay the ground for promoting a sustainable peace process in the state.

The unilateral ceasefire has been announced by the Union home minister while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is expected to visit Kashmir this week, has been silent on this issue. It, therefore, creates doubts in the minds of the people about the implementation of the policy in letter and spirit. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has expressed the view that security forces will continue their operations as they are firm on eliminating terrorism in the state. This would appear to negate the direction issued by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. In sum, while the Union home minister and defence minister have expressed contrarian views on the issue of military operations, the BJP leaders of the PDP-BJP government have disassociated with the all-party resolution conveyed to the Centre by CM Mufti.

The silence of PM Modi in the matter confuses more than it clarifies the Centre’s stand on the ceasefire.

Secondly, the excessive militarisation of Kashmir and actions like search operations by security forces during Ramzan when people are busy in religious duties, especially in late evenings and early mornings, antagonises devotees and becomes counterproductive. A unilateral ceasefire has, therefore, the potential to act as a catalyst to bring peace in the state, provided of course that meaningful efforts are made to reach out to the youth who are leading the agitations.

Thirdly, in this week, Pakistan’s politicians and army officials are debating why and how that country allowed the establishment of terror infrastructure and why they sponsored the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. In my view, there is a growing realisation in Pakistan about its misguided policy on Kashmir that results in frequent ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC). As Kashmir is yearning for peace, the unilateral ceasefire announced by India will receive a positive response from the people of the region, which in turn will facilitate the task of promoting peace and development.

CM Mufti has always pleaded for applying the healing touch to all those who have suffered due to insurgency and militancy. During the era of ceasefire, her government would get the opportunity to serve the people and fulfil the government’s mandate. It would then be possible to conduct the pending elections of panchayats and parliamentary polls as well.

In a vibrant democracy like India, a hardline military approach is not the proper option for dealing with law and order issues emanating from people’s dissatisfaction with governance. Therefore, the state’s leadership should have the full authority and autonomy to deal with regional problems. They have come forward with the demand for the Centre to initiate a ceasefire, which has justly been accepted.

The Centre has already appointed its representative, Dineshwar Sharma, to talk to all stakeholders in the state. During this ceasefire period, his task may be easier and most effective since the religious sentiments of a minority community are duly respected by the government; and, therefore, people may come forward to pave the path of peace and prosperity. The government has shown empathy and love, particularly in the holy month of Ramzan, which should be duly welcomed by all peace-loving Kashmiris. Amarnath yatris and devotees will also welcome it, as they will have a safe pilgrimage.

This is also an opportune time for implementing various confidence building measures (CBMs) as suggested by expert committees from time to time, including the points mutually agreed upon in the agenda of the BJP-PDP alliance. Without implementation of welfare and development measures, the results of the ceasefire may not be optimum. This is also the time to implement PM Modi’s policy of embracing Kashmiris, rather than abusing them, to deal with their problems.

Since the request for a unilateral ceasefire has come from the CM in consultation with all mainstream political parties, the Centre’s support will help contain the militancy that has remained unabated due largely to the growing alienation of youth. The CM has a huge responsibility to deliver as the Centre has extended full support to her leadership.

The writer is former CIC and Centre’s interlocutor on J&K

Courtesy Indian Express

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