Centre extending the olive branch to the valley-based militants and separatists by announcing unilateral ceasefire two days before the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Jammu and Kashmir on 19 May has generated expectations that he might take another initiative of announcing resumption of peace dialogue with those who have adopted the dissent mode.
However, the Pakistan based leadership of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) terror outfit has rejected the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which has recruited a number of local boys in its ranks particularly in South Kashmir, and the separatists have not so far responded. The separatists have announced anti-Modi demonstration in Srinagar when he reaches there.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said that the ceasefire will help create an atmosphere for “sustained dialogue”. She described it as the beginning of listening to the accounts of agony of the state’s people by the country’s leadership and the policymakers which she has been requesting time and again.
A senior legislator of the CPM, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, who is considered among the sane voices in the valley, while welcoming the ceasefire, said, “Political backup and political dialogue with dissenting voices and Pakistan is a must for the success of this initiative. The political leadership needs to backup ceasefire proposals as perhaps the previous such announcements failed due to lack of political backup that could have sustained them.” He was hopeful that during his visit to Kashmir, PM Modi might announce a plan for meaningful process of dialogue.
Tarigami also advised all stakeholders to shun the extreme and rigid positions in favour of some common middleground which will take into consideration the genuine political aspirations of all the people involved.
While the mainstream parties have given thumbs-up to the Centre’s initiative, but what was worrying was that the terror outfits and separatists were looking the other way. The LeT while rejecting the truce call, claimed it would continue the armed struggle until and unless Jammu and Kashmir gets “freedom”.
“Ceasefire is not an option. We deem it as sin to the sacrifices rendered in the freedom struggle. We are the heirs of martyrs and opting for such choice is treachery to their blood,” Abdullah Ghazanwi, spokesperson of LeT quoting its Kashmir chief Mahmood Shah, said in a statement. He said that the LeT will continue the armed struggle until and unless Jammu and Kashmir wins its “freedom”.
Shah, however, said they are in favour of talks but not in presence of the armed forces. “We are in favour of negotiations. Talks of negotiations in presence of armed forces in the region are nothing but a lie,” he said.
The Rs. 80,000-crore package announced by PM Modi for reconstruction in J-K during his previous visit has helped in construction of infrastructure but has not helped sorting out the political aspirations in the valley.
In an earlier Kashmir-centric initiative, Modi had last year appointed a former CBI director Dineshwar Sharma as the Centre’s representative to begin the dialogue process in Kashmir. However, this too has so far not yielded encouraging results as neither the separatists nor anyone from any militant outfit has accepted his invitation for talks.
Modi’s first visit to the valley this year comes when the security forces have succeeded in neutralising about 65 terrorists, including some top commanders of HM and LeT outfits.
The ceasefire is expected to give boost to Mehbooba’s PDP that has been marginalised in Kashmir. However, her coalition partner BJP is somewhat demoralised in Jammu as its local leaders, including deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta, minister of state in PMO Jitendra Singh and few others had opposed Mehbooba’s call for ceasefire by saying it was not in the national interest.