Ceasefire in Kashmir

New Delhi’s decision to have unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir – or to use the official language ‘halt in counter-insurgency operations’ –  during the Ramzan month is a welcome one. That the decision has come within days of the army chief pooh-poohing the idea of a ceasefire which he claimed could take place only between armies and not between an army and a group of insurgents, is all the more welcome. In fact New Delhi’s policy on Kashmir (many would argue what the Centre has been following is a non-policy) has proved to be counter-productive. It has only helped to alienate further the Kashmiri people from India. Shooting pellets on young people indulging in stone-pelting has not helped because the basic problem in Kashmir is political and not law and order.
If the militants do not provoke the security forces during the ceasefire period, prospects are expected to brighten for a dialogue between the Centre and Kashmiri leaders of all hues including those who are called separatists. First, the process of alienation must be halted and then talks should be opened with all shades of opinion. Even a peaceful period of one month will help stretch the ceasefire period by another month and gradually a congenial atmosphere for peace talks can be created. There is no doubt that there are cases of innocent citizens including minors having been killed in operations by the security forces. If the violence stops and ceasefire is stabilized, it would be a great step forward.
It is noteworthy that the Centre has recently withdrawn AFSPA from Meghalaya. Earlier, this draconian law was withdrawn from Tripura and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. If peace stabilizes in Kashmir, then the possibility of withdrawing AFSPA from Kashmir can be considered by the Centre. Withdrawal of AFSPA is being demanded by the people of Kashmir cutting across political lines. Trust begets trust. If the militants honour the ceasefire and desist from attacking the security forces during this period, conditions will be created for stabilizing peace in the Valley which is the need of the hour. Then the Centre should start talking to a cross section of Kashmiri people, assuage their hurt feeling and give them the assurance that the Centre is for reconciliation. The political leadership of the Government rather than the defence forces should be seen to be taking decision and holding talks. Kashmir is essentially a political problem which cannot be solved by merely taking action against stone-pelters and separatists.

Saturday, 19 May, 2018