Counting blessings of peace, political parties pray for more after Ramadhan

Prior to the May 16 ceasefire announcement the gunfights between government forces and militants, which would often result in civilian killings, was almost a routine in Kashmir.

Muddasir Ali
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 24 2018 11:58PM | Updated Date: May 25 2018 9:31AM
Counting blessings of peace, political parties pray for more after RamadhanRepresentational Pic

A week of relative peace and quiet in the holy month of Ramadhan resulting from the unilateral ceasefire announced by New Delhi has spurred a hope and expectation among members of various political parties that the ceasefire must extend beyond the month of fasting and that New Delhi should begin a substantive process of dialogue with the separatist leadership.

The government spokesman Naeem Akhter feels that the ceasefire is a first step towards building a more comprehensive plan for the start of a peace process in the Kashmir Valley. “We are hopeful that the ceasefire announcement is the first step from the center towards building larger peace process in the state,” said Akhter. According to him the aim of the ceasefire was to break the “cycle of violence” in the Valley in which people find themselves trapped in and then take the initiative forward.

Prior to the May 16 ceasefire announcement the gunfights between government forces and militants, which would often result in civilian killings, was almost a routine in Kashmir.

Since the beginning of this year at least 29 civilians have been killed in the forces’ action against protestors seeking to save militants. At the same time the number of militants killed during the period has already crossed 50.

But despite a major offensive launched by the security establishment against militants after the 2016 summer uprising, killing more than 200 rebels alone last year, there has been no end to fresh recruitment in the militant ranks. According to various reports more than 60 youth have taken up arms during the first four months of this year alone.

It was against the backdrop of this fast deteriorating situation that the center finally agreed to a united mainstream voice led by the Chief Minister to announce a cessation of hostilities. This, after repeated pleas from Mehbooba for initiating a dialogue on Kashmir were not responded to by New Delhi.

But while the relative peace continues many are wondering what would happen after the month of fasting is over. “We don’t want that this should be a step announced in isolation,” said ruling People’s Democratic Party chief spokesperson Muhammad Rafi Mir.

He alluded to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s speech in front of the Prime Minister in Srinagar when she talked about the need for implementing Agenda of Alliance. “We will now take up with the center the need for implementing the agenda of alliance,” said Mir.

One of the key components of the agenda of alliance is to start a dialogue process with both Hurriyat as well as Pakistan. On both the fronts there has been no progress as the government of India has relied more on iron-fist policy to crush militancy in the restive region.

But if the ceasefire announcement is any indication, explained a senior political observer, there seems to be a realization dawning upon New Delhi that its strategy in Kashmir was falling apart.

“This could be sensed from the recent reports that security forces, in a change of strategy, have decided to arrest militants instead of killing them. This is a major shift in the anti-militancy policy,” said the political observer.

Sounding hopeful for peace to continue, J&K interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma sounded hopeful. “I am hopeful that peace will prevail not only this month but in times to come. I am hopeful this peace will continue,” Sharma told Greater Kashmir over phone from New Delhi.

There is another reason that may explain urgency shown by mainstream parties for the continuation of ceasefire in Kashmir. Since the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016, there has been no break in protests which has pushed the mainstream politics to the edge in the Valley, particularly in south Kashmir that was epicentre of five month long uprising.

None of the parties, both the ruling and opposition camps, have been able to hold any major public program in the Valley since 2016. That the government has twice cancelled Panchayat polls and decided altogether not to hold by-election to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat gives a sense how difficult it has become for pro-India parties to carry on their political programme.

“There is no denying the fact that political activities have been limited to closed door functions. We are not even able to move around in our constituencies not to talk of holding public rallies,” said a National Conference leader.

His views were seconded by a senior PDP leader from South Kashmir. “The civilian killings and political activities can’t go together. At the end of the day it is we (mainstream politicians) who bear the brunt,” said the PDP leader. “We hope that the ceasefire will be followed by more pro-people initiatives to help improve the situation.”   

At the same time these parties, which are now facing the threat of becoming redundant, are hoping that the so-called peace initiative would help them regain the lost ground.   

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