Monday, November 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No combat operations during Ramzan
PM’s gesture to restore peace in Kashmir
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 19 — Extending an olive branch to Kashmiri militants, the government, for the first time since terrorism began in Jammu and Kashmir 11 years ago, today declared a unilateral ceasefire in combat operations against Pakistan-backed extremists during the holy month of Ramzan.

The announcement from the Prime Minister came after he met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. Dr Abdullah was called to the Capital at short notice for the meeting with the Prime Minister. He flew back to Jammu in the evening.

Announcing the decision, the Prime Minister said he hoped the gesture “will be fully appreciated and all violence in the state and infiltration across the line of control and the international border will cease and peace will prevail.”

Over the past few days, the Centre had been making gestures reflecting a change in its policy towards the militants in Jammu and Kashmir. This had also been noticed and appreciated by the leaders of the various groups, including the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The leaders had openly made statements pointing to this change in the Centre’s attitude.

Apparently the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is said to have considered the Centre’s move at its meeting here yesterday. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister was also apparently called to Delhi after the CCS gave its clearance to the proposal of the government.

This is for the first time that the Centre has taken such a decision. The move also comes apparently as a gesture to encourage the militants to come around to the table for peace talks. Centre’s move comes after the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen had withdrawn its ceasefire on August 8 after announcing it on July 24.

There were also reports that Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Abdullah Bukhari was likely to fly to Srinagar in the coming days as the representative of the government. The Imam is expected to hold talks with APHC leaders and Hizbul Mujahideen commanders to restore peace in the valley.

In the statement the Prime Minister said, “The holy month of Ramzan, during which Prophet Mohammed exhorted one and all to live in peace and harmony, is soon approaching and the government has, therefore, instructed the security forces not to initiate combat operations against militants in Jammu and Kashmir during this pious month in the Islamic calendar.”

He said the government had and would continue efforts to normalise the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and to hold talks with all those prepared for a dialogue.

The Prime Minister, in his statement, recalled that during his visit to Srinagar on August 3, this year, he had “underscored the need for resolving all issues in the spirit of “insaniyat” (humanism).

“Mine was a sincere appeal for cooperation to bring to an end the long trail of violence which has claimed so many precious lives and inflicted untold misery on all sections of the state’s population — Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs alike.”

Asserting that India had always stood for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, Mr Vajpayee said events of the past two years “have further underscored India’s credentials for peace.”

“They have also once again proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that India has both, the resolve and capability, to defeat any attempt to transgress India’s security and challenge our national unity and integrity,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said, “The true complexion of the forces of terrorism and separatism, as also their growing isolation in Jammu and Kashmir, are now clearer than ever before.”

“The entire world knows who is misusing the name of Islam to prolong the agony of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

“Our sisters and brothers in the state have always longed for the return of peace and normalcy which is now happening steadily and perceptibly,” the Prime Minister said, adding the people of the country “are heartened by the steady improvement in the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile Defence Minister George Fernandes tonight said the government was hoping that the militants would respond favourably to the ceasefire announced by the Centre.

He said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had taken the decision about the ceasefire considering the suggestions from various organisations and individuals.

The government felt that the people of Kashmir enjoyed peace during the Ramzan, he added.

Asked if the government wants to have a dialogue with extremist organisations to establish peace in the trouble-torn state, the Defence Minister said a dialogue was always two sided. The government had initiated a dialogue earlier also but that was scuttled.

Asked if the government would continue the ceasefire even after the month-long Ramzan, he said this would be considered only at that time.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to suspend all combat operations against militants during the month of Ramzan which starts later this month, has evoked positive reactions from all quarters including the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah.

While the Chief Minister tonight expressed hope that all militant groups would reciprocate the Centre’s gesture, senior National Conference leader Abdul Rashid Dar said that the government’s decision to impose a unilateral ceasefire would help bring a lasting peace in the state.

The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the CPM also welcomed the decision in Srinagar.

Party state secretary and MLA M.Y. Tarigami termed the decision as a “bold initiative” and said “it is bound to create confidence and goodwill among the larger section of the people. If responded positively by other contending groups (militants) this will help in creating an atmosphere for initiation of a meaningful dialogue.”

Al-Badr rejects PM’s offer

SRINAGAR, Nov 19 (UNI) — The Al-Badr militant outfit today rejected the Prime Minister’s ceasefire offer while several political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed it.

A caller identified himself a spokesman of Al-Badr told journalists that it rejected the offer.

He said it was nothing but misleading.

He said it was during the holy month of Ramzan that Muslims fought and won “Jungibader” during the time of Prophet Mohammed.Back

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