Bashir Manzar

Ceasefire and surging militant attacks

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Separatists can’t always shout ‘kill the umpire’ but get ready to play the game

The unprecedented surge in militant attacks in the holy month of Ramazan following a ceasefire announced by the Government of India (GoI) has generated a debate in the political circles of Jammu and Kashmir. The big question that haunts every citizen, though it may not be spelled out publicly due to known reasons, is that why restoration of peace is being resented by some groups.

With GoI’s ceasefire initiative coupled with a talks offer and then the decision of the armies of India and Pakistan to respect 2003 ceasefire agreement and implement it in ‘letter and spirit’, the die had been cast for the Valley to breathe normality after months of turbulence. However, the ‘honeymoon with peace’ proved too short-lived as militants resorted to attacks on government forces camps, security patrols and residences of mainstream political activists with much more ferocity.

When GoI announced ceasefire, the offer, as expected, was rejected by the militant groups saying that it was just “a drama”.  Even the separatist trio of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik which calls itself ‘Joint Resistance Leadership or JRL, too sounded cynical in its response to the truce offer. However, 19 days of Ramazan stand witness that the government forces didn’t launch any anti-insurgency offensive, and therefore, people are within their rights to suggest that the militants too should have given truce a try.

That didn’t happen. On Friday, June 1st, there were four attacks in south and central Kashmir by militants; on Saturday, June 02, militants attacked at three places in Srinagar city and on Sunday, June 03, there were three attacks in south Kashmir; on Monday, June 4, militants again attacked a police post in Shopian. Several government forces’ personnel and civilians were injured in these attacks. So for, the good news is that the government forces have not retaliated and therefore there has been no bigger loss.

Kashmiri people have a right to question the militant leadership about these attacks. They have the right because all these militant groups claim to be fighting a war of an ordinary Kashmiri and therefore this ordinary Kashmiri has a right to ask: if GoI has decided to give peace a chance, why you are scuttling it? How come you believe that stray grenade attacks here and there would bring much desired ‘Azadi’ (freedom) to Kashmir?

Yes, no one is going to give a clean chit to the government forces operating in Kashmir. What happened at Nawhata in Srinagar the other day has shocked every saner element and has rightly been condemned by one and all. Besides the government forces have all along had a lousy track record on the human rights front and therefore can’t be exonerated of all wrong doings. From extra-judicial murders to rapes to the incidents of human-shield, the government forces have had too much burden of violations on their shoulders. But as far as this Ramazan truce is concerned, it goes without saying that these forces have strictly stood by the GoI’s ceasefire decision and there have been no cordon and search operations besides a halt has been put to the “operation all out” as well.

In this backdrop, one would have expected the JRL and militant leadership to be more pragmatic. At least for the simple reason to ensure some semblance of peace in this holy month so that ordinary people could be spared day-to-day trauma of worrying for life and limb; so that they could instead focus entirely on seeking Almighty’s mercy and forgiveness -- which is what Ramazan  is all about.

For argument’s sake, let us agree that GoI’s ceasefire offer was just a “farce and drama”. Political wisdom demands that the adversary must be pressed into his/her own book of rules and outmaneuvered in his/her own game. Here it would have meant that without attracting blames to itself, the ball should have been thrown back into the “enemy’s court” with shrewd prudence. If GoI would have faltered, it would not only have established JRL and militant leadership as politically astute and correct but would have exposed GoI in the eye of the international community which has keenly been watching the developments in Kashmir and on the International Border and Line of Control. Unfortunately, one again we saw the separatist camp declaring the game “dirty” even before stepping into the playground.

India and Pakistan are two nuclear powers and their armies are armed to teeth to fight wars. However, following escalated tensions along the International Border and the Line of Control, these two nuclear powers too decided to cease hostilities and pledged to revert to the 2013 ceasefire agreement. Why? The two armies wanted restoration of peace so that people living on either side of the divide could live without constant threat of being caught in the crossfire.

Why the militant leadership here didn’t do the same? Why didn’t this leadership prioritize peoples’ comfort and well-being over all other political considerations? JRL should have taken the lead. This platform claims to be representing the sentiments of the Kashmiri people. Let someone tell JRL that the Kashmiri sentiment doesn’t start and end with ‘Azadi’ alone. People know that it is a long-drawn battle and till then they have to live, and live in a dignified manner. They have to eat, and for that they have to be able to earn respectably. Their children have to be able to go to schools to seek education, and possibly to the best of their abilities so that they can compete with the world. But for all this to happen, there has to be some semblance of peace and calm in the society even if the larger irritants propelling strife remain unresolved. We cannot just put all our eggs in the same basket by making routine life processes – health of our elderly, education of our children, physical safety and security of every person and section, or the overall societal well-being – subservient to the final resolution and outcome of a larger political dispute. Thinking of Azadi as an ‘either-or’ binary is suicidal; it has to be a ‘both-and’ thing where society operates with some degree of normality inspite and despite of the continued row over the larger political questions.

Kashmir dispute has defied resolution for close to three quarters of a century by now. Neither grenades by the militants nor stone pelting by Kashmir’s young and old, and certainly not the frequent strike calls by JRL are going to help. These didn’t during past nearly three decades, and so believing these tactics to yield different results now is barking up the wrong tree.

It’s high time that the people of Kashmir and all those who are in the leadership roles try and evolve some political maturity and reasonableness in the political choices they make each time some proposal brings the proverbial ball to their court. Politics, this is, they must understand, and this is how the game is played. They cannot forever  shout ‘kill the umpire’ in the belief that this alone would spare them burden of donning a bat or the ball to do some active gaming!

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