November 2000 News

Ramzan ceasefire: Army guns fall silent

25 November 2000
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: The army on Saturday announced suspension of operations against all militant outfits in the Valley but said the soldiers will retain the right to retaliate in self-defence. The suspension is to also cover search-and-cordon operations. The army also said the ceasefire may be extended and continued indefinitely if everything ''goes well''. The suspension of counter-insurgency operations came two days before the Prime Ministerís unilateral Ramzan ceasefire goes into effect. The GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. H. M. Khanna said, ''Offensive actions will be suspended against all the militant outfits across-the-board, irrespective of their stance, standing and political leanings. ''The Army will go in for cessation of all offensive operations and will exhibit restraint and resilience as well as not retaliate despite provocation.'' But the General warned the militants that moving around with arms would be treated as a hostile act. ''Our troops retain the right to retaliate in self-defence''. Any action threatening the safety of troops and installations would also be answered appropriately, he added. Troops along the border and LoC have been asked not to provide any excuse to Pakistan to escalate the situation. The governmentís strategy is apparently based on the optimism reflected by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference that described the ceasefire as ''a positive change in the thinking of the Indian leadership''. The people in the Valley are happy that there would be no cordon-and-search operations this time enabling them to offer extra prayers during the month of Ramzan without being harassed. They hope that things remain quiet from militantsí side as well. A peace march led by Javed Hussain Shah, MLC, on the streets of Srinagar was an indication of the growing desperation for peace in Kashmir. ''People want peace. There is no doubt about it and we want the ceasefire to succeed beyond Ramzan'', Javed told The Hindustan Times. That rally of 200-odd people in Srinagar was followed by a massive rally on Friday in Sonawari where thousands said ''yes'' to ceasefire and ''no'' to guns. However, in the Jammu area, local RSS and Shiv Sena units have come out strongly against the latest government move. Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Daya Krishan Kotwal reiterated his demand that the security forces be given free hand to deal with the militants. ''The forces should not be ordered to stay quiet when militants continue to kill and maim our people''. Meanwhile, troops were called out in all sensitive areas of Doda district even as other parts of Jammu witnessed demonstrations against spate in minority killings in the state. Curfew was clamped on Kishtwar where widespread demonstrations had been planned to protest against the killing of five Hindu passengers in Pattai Mahal jungles on Friday evening. The security forces carried out a flag march in Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, two of the sensitive towns, to avert any communal trouble.


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