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It is perhaps for the first time since her taking over as Chief Minister that Mehbooba Mufti has got what she had desired. And interestingly what she had asked for this time – a unilateral Ramazan ceasefire – was, as always, bitterly opposed by the BJP — her coalition partner in the state with Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta himself leading the charge and others following it, including some central leaders like Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in PMO, who also comes from J&K. So the kind of din that was created around the proposal put forth by the Chief Minister following an all party meeting she had called here last week, had left very little doubt about what was going to be fate of the ceasefire proposal. But junking the calculations and predictions of all political commentators and analysts, Centre actually accepted the proposal and declared a ceasefire asking its forces to not launch anti-militancy operations in the state during holy month of Ramazan. The announcement came ahead of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to J&K on Saturday.

The move has certainly come as a surprise to all. Though one could cite many examples to prove the staggering disbelief it came with, one thing that needs a particular mention here is that it took the separatist trio of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik – the “joint resistance leadership” – more that twenty-four hours to mull and make public their response to the development. Ideally they remain ever-ready to welcome or reject anything on the face value– without actually allowing even themselves time to understand pros and cons of any new development, but here the sheer unexpected nature of the development was such that they too were baffled!

Coming back to the ceasefire announcement, though it has come with a necessary rider — that the government forces “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people” – but this does not take away from it the importance of being a very big and important opening  as far as Kashmir’s situational stalemate is concerned. No doubt both the militants and the separatists have rejected the ceasefire – they had done so in November 2000 also when the initiative of Ramazan ceasefire came from then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But at that time the ceasefire extended beyond the month of Ramazan for five more months before being brought to a close on May 23, 2001.

So the rejection apart, fact of the matter remains that in the case of conflicts that remain stalemated for varied reasons, much to the detriment of the concerned parties and recipient populations both, every new opportunity and opening – howsoever small the window is – is always a welcome increment which has to/must be grabbed if the idea is to break the impasse and move forward. But unfortunately for Kashmir, here even the hurting status quo has over the years been perfected as the quality and virtue of a particular brand of leadership, which feels, besides life and limb, even its political relevance and future threatened in the wake of any flexibility in its dogmatic stances. So their opposition to the ceasefire is on expected lines, and it does not need a political genius to demystify their thinking and their behaviour. But what is important, and this must indeed have been in mind when Government of India conceded the demand of unilateral Ramazan ceasefire — are the common, ordinary mortals of Kashmir, who obviously were desperately in need of a breather which this ceasefire offers them. To borrow from the Chief Minister, “what better a time to go for this significant decision than the onset of holy month of Ramazan which promotes values of patience, self-restraint and tolerance.”

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