No ceasefire; Army free to retaliate, conduct combat ops during Ramzan

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Responding to Union government's announcement of suspension of operations during the holy month of Ramzan, the Army said their concerns have been addressed by the government. Military can retaliate in case of an attack on themselves. Only cordon and search operations will cease, but the Army can still go ahead with combat operations if specific intelligence inputs are available, according to Army sources.

Army sources claim that at present, the intensity of operations is keeping the terrorists on the run, and nearly 65 of them killed in the first four months.

However, the announcement of the suspension of operations comes with a rider. Security forces will reserve the “right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of people”, according to the ministry of home affairs.

Without officially calling it a 'ceasefire ', in a carefully worded statement, the MHA said, “It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror .”

The obvious hint is at those sections in the valley who are sympathetic towards the militants and have been indulging in stone pelting during the operations carried out by the Indian Army and the Central forces in the valley in the last few months.

The Central government has attempted to isolate these forces by saying the “decision (not to conduct operations during Ramzan) has been taken to help peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment.”

Senior MHA officials said Home Minister Rajnath Singh had conveyed this to the J&K government.

The holy month of Ramzan begins on Wednesday while the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, lasting for nearly 50 days, commences June 28.

The Central government's announcement of suspension of operations comes days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. The visit is aimed at reviewing the development projects in the state being undertaken under the prime minister’s development package. However, with the recent operations by security forces and the stone pelting incidents, the Central government had come under fire. It also gave an opportunity for the state government to blame the Centre for the unrest and alienation of youth.

The Mehbooba Mufti government, last week, claimed that an all-party meeting, convened by her government, demanded a unilateral ceasefire be announced by the Centre immediately. Mufti’s announcement stirred a political slugfest between the PDP and the BJP in the state with the latter accusing the CM of politicising the matter. The Central government also expressed its disagreement, with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman backing the Army and the operations against terrorists in the valley.

However, it appears that the BJP government at the Centre has been able to do a balancing act with its announcement to halt operations during Ramzan, at the same time conveying to the security forces that the right to retaliate remains with them.

Army sources maintained that during last ceasefire announced during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2000, terrorist attacks continued unabated. During that six months of ceasefire, named as Non-Initiation of Combat Operations(NICO), terrorists had attacked the Srinagar airport, stormed the then chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s public rally, and conducted suicide attack on Army Cantonment in Srinagar besides stepping up levels of violence. The NICO came into effect on November 19, 2000 and lasted till May 31, 2001. More than 180 security personnel were killed while 240 militants were gunned down during the four months of NICO. However, 260 civilians died and over 500 others were injured in the same period of NICO.

Security forces claimed that all major stake holders of the state are not on the same page as tanzeems (terror outfits) have not come forward to join the truce. Currently, the three main ‘tanzeems’—Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—are active in the Kashmir valley. Security forces maintained that presently, all the three ‘tanzeems’ are headless with their top commanders neutralised in combat operations by security forces in the recent past.