The failure of the Ramzan Ceasefire and the demise of the coalition experiment in Jammu & Kashmir prove that violence and hatred have emerged as the ultimate winners in the Kashmir Valley.
The manner in which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled the rug from under the feet of its coalition partner in the state suggested it cared little for the sentiments of the Kashmiri population. Some reporters have suggested that Ms Mehbooba Mufti was removed from the state’s chief ministership because she was a staunch supporter of the Ramzan truce and advocated a “soft” approach in the Valley.
Perhaps the temporary Ramzan ceasefire was doomed to failure as many of the actors in the strife torn Valley did not seem interested in peace.
Militants particularly those belonging to the Pakistan based Lashkar e Taiba and the Jaish e Mohammad made it clear the ceasefire was a fraud as far as they were concerned and only stepped up their attacks on civilians, policemen and soldiers.
According to available statistics, militant violence witnessed a spurt during the ceasefire period. According to newspaper reports, there were 18 incidents of terror between April 17 to May 17 this year and the figure rose to above 61 during the ceasefire.
A total of 41 persons, including militants (24), civilians (6) and security forces (11) personnel are believed to have been killed during this period. These figures are not official but indicate that the truce was farcical. The cynicism was apparent when terrorists gunned down the much respected editor of Rising Kashmir Jenaab Shujaat Bukhari and his two security guards. Bukhari was believed to be killed because he was a moderate and refused to toe the Pakistani line.
The militants were in no mood to observe the ceasefire and the Pakistan Army too helped them by pushing in more insurgents across the borders. They also stepped up artillery and small arms fire in the border areas to de-stabilise the situation and cause civilian migration from border areas.
The Separatists who are guided by Pakistan did not want any truce or wish to be part of any dialogue. They said they would participate in any talks but added riders and demanded more clarity. The government too made no formal move to initiate talks and in the absence of any concrete offer, the question of talks did not arise perhaps much to the relief of the separatist trio, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Md. Yasin Malik and Maulvi Umar Farooq. The end of the truce vindicated their position and they will not continue to spread discontent.
Most parties, especially Congress and National Conference, were in support of ceasefire during Ramzan but feel they were not involved in the decision or in any move to deepen the peace discourse. When the ceasefire was revoked, NC chief and former chief minister Omar Abdullah remarked it was a “failure of everyone who wanted to give peace a chance”.
The PDP had the most to gain from a peace overture and dialogue with the Separatists as it had witnessed a severe erosion in its support base ever since it decided to form a government with the BJP three years ago. Mehbooba Mufti always talked of the need of restraint and a feeling of forgiveness towards stone pelters and other rebellious youngsters in the state.
The state BJP, on the other hand, found Ms Mufti’s stance intolerable. The BJP too has seen an erosion in its support base because it has been unable to fulfil any of its electoral promises and some of its leaders were seen to be lining their pockets.
According to police sources, stone pelting and general unrest had witnessed a sharp decline during the truce period although it had not abated in the separatist bastions of downtown Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore, Anantnag and Kupwara.
Common people had heaved a sigh of relief, especially the poor and working class sections of society. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president G A Mir said: “Especially, in the month of Ramadan, people got respite from sudden crackdowns and search operations which (otherwise) disturbed the situation. There was definitely a difference (in the situation).”
Constant bandhs, shutdowns and curfews have made the lives of the toiling millions in Kashmir miserable. While many of them support Azadi cause their more immediate concern is feeding their families. For them the end of the truce and President’s rule could be bad news if it brings more violence.
Collapse of Government
The end of the BJP-PDP coalition government on 19 June could signal the beginning of more violence and bad times for the Valley. The BJP government is sure to increase pressure on militants and have little sympathy for stone pelters and other militant supporters. Some in the Valley believe that Governor’s rule could be the prelude to some dramatic anti-insurgency measures.
The Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state could benefit from a hard line on the Valley and are certain to see better development and more government expenditure which the Kashmiri bureaucracy was denying them. This would however serve to widen the already existing regional divide in the state.
A time would come when it would be impossible to reconcile the differences in attitudes and ideologies of the different parts of the state, This could lead to political stasis or a division of the state. Whatever happens Jammu & Kashmir seems certain to be headed for difficult times.
21 June 2018