Tuesday, November 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Guns fall silent in Kashmir
High alert sounded
Tribune News Service and agencies

JAMMU, Nov 27 — Guns fell silent late this evening as the ceasefire announced by the Prime Minister came into effect today.

Official sources said Lieut-Gen H.M. Khanna had conveyed strict instructions to his field commanders to honour the Prime Minister’s commitment. The instructions had also gone to the BSF. The police force in 12 districts of Jammu and Kashmir had received such instructions from the Inspectors-General of the Police.

According to official sources, the security forces and the police have been instructed to suspend cordon and search operations throughout the state. The troops have been told in specific terms not to open fire, despite provocation but retaliate only if “their lives” are in danger.”

Under the ceasefire order, the security forces, especially the troops, have been told to continue road opening and patrolling exercises.

Asked whether the guns at the LoC and the international border, too had fallen silent, the sources said the troops had been instructed to retaliate only when they come under heavy fire or shelling from across the border. They had instructions to keep a vigil on known infiltration routes and take action they deemed suitable to halt the ingress.

A senior government functionary said: “We have fears that the level of violence may further increase but we are determined to pave the way for initiating a peace process in the state”.

Apart from all mainstream political parties, several separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed the ceasefire announcement and have appealed to the militants to reciprocate by suspending combat operations against the security forces and soft targets.

Indications are that if the militants do not create any alarming law and order problem, talks with rebel outfits which have local domination will be started soon. At present two main rebel outfits — Jash-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba — have intensified their armed campaign against the security forces.

A change in the stance of the Hizbul Mujahideen was evident when its leadership vehemently denied that its activists were responsible for the killing of 10 persons belonging to a minority community near Banihal and Kishtwar recently.

Reports indicate that despite the tough stand adopted by Hizb supremo Syed Salahuddin, a major faction of the outfit operating in Jammu and Kashmir is in favour of the proposed peace process. This faction is not happy with the style of functioning of foreign mercenaries.

The security forces have been put on a high alert in Jammu and Kashmir to meet any militant threat during the Ramzan ceasefire.

Highly placed defence sources today said the militants might strike anywhere in the state to sabotage the peace process.

Security personnel shot dead two intruders near the International Border (IB) in Kathua district and a BSF jawan was injured when suspected ultras triggered a powerful IED in Hari-Bhalla area of Rajouri.

The security forces shot dead two Pakistani intruders near the IB in Mangu Chak area in Kathua district early today. In another incident, Head Constable Divender Singh was injured when militants triggered an IED in Hari-Bhalla area of Rajouri district last night.

He was later shifted to hospital where his condition was stated to be stable.

Conveying his “good wishes” to the people on the holy month of Ramzan beginning tomorrow, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah urged them to pray for the success of the Prime Minister’s peace initiative.

He asked the militants, who are “misguided and have taken to the gun”, to shun the path of violence to help restore peace for which the people were yearning. “Drop the gun and look toward peace,” he said.

He said the ceasefire could be extended beyond the holy month.

Dr Farooq said Mr Vajpayee had taken a “big and bold” step to end violence in the trouble-torn state. “Nobody ever expected the offer of a unilateral ceasefire from Mr Vajpayee, but he has demonstrated that India always believed in peace and can go to any possible extent to promote such conditions,” he said in a statement.

Describing the initiative as the “first step”, the Chief Minister said more steps could follow to achieve the objective of restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir. “Peace will dawn in the state,” he said.Back

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