Two days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected visit to India-held Kashmir to inaugurate a hydroelectricity project, prominent civil society activists and resistance leaders in the disputed region have put the ball back in New Delhi’s court by arguing that the Indian government has “failed to offer a principled, comprehensive and broad-based proposal to end all kinds of hostilities”.
Also, the civil society activists, human rights defenders and resistance leaders in the Himalayan region are sceptical of the Indian home ministry’s latest proposal to halt anti-militancy “operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramazan”, as they accuse New Delhi of being “selective in choosing what suits its interests”.
When contacted, chairman of a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asked: “What next after this temporary relief? What is the vision, the path ahead? Will they kill us again after one month? Will they again use bullets, pellets, pepper gas, chilli powder and tear gas shells against us after a month?”
Earlier, speaking at a seminar organised by the Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar said: “If you are saying guns should be silent, what next? What is the reason our educated boy today has a gun in his hand? The root cause is the Kashmir dispute. We believe that the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir [Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan] is a disputed territory. India and Pakistan are two parties to this and have accepted that the future of Kashmir will be decided through a referendum.”
“The right to self-determination of Kashmiris is an internationally recognised right. Address the root cause [Maslai-i-Kashmir],” he said and added the “struggle is not to secure temporary relief from repression”.
On Wednesday, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh sent out a tweet that said: “The Centre asks security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramazan. Decision taken to help the peace-loving Muslims observe Ramazan in a peaceful environment. HM Shri @rajnathsingh has informed the Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti), J&K, of Centre’s decision.”
However, another tweet from the same handle said: “Security forces to reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative….”
Within half an hour of Mr Singh’s tweet, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the offer and tweeted: “I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramazan ceasefire & would like to thank @narendramodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders & parties who participated in the All Party Meeting & helped build consensus towards this announcement.”
Analysts believe the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) wants to sell the temporary offer to halt operations “as the mother of all confidence-building measures because of its utter failure on all fronts”. But well-known civil society coalitions said that in essence Mr Singh’s proposal “is not a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities”.
Khurram Parvez, the chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and programme coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, said that “cessation of hostilities would mean releasing all 600 political prisoners, putting an end to all forms of violence and intimidation against people through cordon and search operations, torture, arrests, crackdowns, and willingness to initiate a meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders for a just resolution of Kashmir dispute”.
“Mr Singh’s offer is no ceasefire. Ceasefire does not only mean stopping encounters against militants. Is the act of slapping Public Safety Acts against freedom-loving people not hostility? Is the act of keeping 600 people in jail for their political views not hostility?” Mr Parvez asked.
Even pro-India politicians active in the disputed region want more than just temporary relief.
A senior leader of the mainstream opposition National Conference, Nasir Aslam Wani (Sogami), said New Delhi’s offer “is a welcome step if it is reciprocated by all sides and is then followed by initiation of a sincere dialogue aimed at Kashmir resolution with all concerned. Otherwise, if the guns will roar again after a month the entire exercise would be meaningless”.
Rafi Ahmad Mir, chief spokesman for the ruling PDP, said: “The ceasefire offer is a prerequisite for peace and also an opportunity to move ahead to start a dialogue process on Kashmir.”
Since the killing of militant ‘commander’ Burhan Wani in July 2016, the Indian forces have killed over 460 militants, including ‘commanders’ like Sabzar Ahmed Bhat, Junaid Mattoo, Bashir Lashkari, Yasin Yattoo alias Mehmood Gaznavi, Yawar Bashir Wani, Zubair Turray, Saddam Padder and Sameer alias Tiger.