Sunday, February 18, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Ceasefire likely to be extended
CCS meeting today; Farooq favours truce
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
Yet another extension of the cessation of combat operations against militants in Jammu and Kashmir is on the cards despite intense opposition to the move in certain quarters within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government.

“Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s initiative to give peace a chance in troubled Jammu and Kashmir has received an overwhelming response from the Kashmiris and backing off at this juncture will inevitably reverse the process,” authoritative sources say.

Even as the Army firmly believes that the advantages of trying to find a peaceful resolution to the protracted Kashmir problem far outweighs the disadvantages, there is discernible resentment in some sections that the crime graph of Pakistan-aided militant violence in the valley is showing a marked rising trend.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister is categoric that there is no complacency or any lowering of guard by the security forces in blunting the machinations of the militants. Mr Vajpayee believes the atmospherics in the valley has undergone a drastic change, thanks to the opening of a window after an interminably long time. The endeavour is to sit across the table and sort out contentious issues rather than indulging in senseless bloodletting.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is scheduled to meet here tomorrow after Mr Vajpayee returns to the Capital from Mumbai. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen S. Padmanabhan, are expected to be specially invited for the CCS meeting to hear their assessment of the prevailing situation since the peace initiative became effective coinciding with the fasting month of Ramzan in November-December last year.

After blowing hot and cold that the unilateral ceasefire had failed to take off and must be withdrawn, Dr Abdullah changed his tune in Jammu today. He told mediapersons that he was not averse to another extension of Mr Vajpayee’s unilateral ceasefire initiative. This should be done after a critical appraisal of the internal situation in the sensitive border state.

Criticising the All-Party Hurriyat Conference for its double standards, Dr Abdullah said these leaders were not sincere and charged them with fomenting trouble.


Two youths injured in firing
100 hurt as cops, protesters clash
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Srinagar, February 17
Two youths received bullet wounds as large-scale violence rocked Kashmir valley which observed a Hurriyat Conference-sponsored general strike for the second day today disrupting normal life even as curfew continued in parts of Srinagar.

In yet another firing incident, two youths identified as Farooq Ahmad Gujari and Riyaz Ahmad Bhat were injured during a demonstration in downtown Srinagar in protest against the killing of seven persons in shooting incidents in the valley in the past two days. Official sources said a group of counter-insurgents allegedly fired at the youths at Zampakadal-Chhatabal seriously wounding them. They were admitted to hospital.

The police said it was investigating the latest firing incident.

Tension prevailed across the valley against the Haigam killings as demonstrations were held in several areas of Baramula district and at many places here in violation of curfew restrictions.

Nearly 100 persons, including 40 police personnel, were injured in clashes when the police resorted to a lathicharge, lobbed teargas shells and fired into the air. Two civilians were injured when some counter-insurgents opened fire on a group of demonstrators at Chattabal here this afternoon.

The police said the situation in the valley remained peaceful and under control during the day. Curfew continued in Batamaloo, Maisuma, Hari Singh High Street, Natipora and Rambagh areas of the city today after these restrictions were imposed here yesterday following trouble at Budshah Chowk. The police said there were stray incidents of stone pelting in Srinagar and Baramula.

Thousands of villagers held protest demonstrations on the Srinagar-Baramula highway near Haigam, 40 km north of here, against the killings of four persons on Thursday last and injuries to several others. Traffic on the highway was blocked for some time. Similar processions were taken out in Pattan and the Palhalan areas on the highway. Reports said the police opened fire on a group of demonstrators at Palhalan. However, there were no reports of any injuries.

CRPF personnel fired into the air at Baramula when demonstrators pelted stones on a picket of the security forces. However, the situation was reported to be well under control. In the capital reports of stone pelting came in from the Maisuma, Habbakadal, Karan Nagar, Nullah Maar, Nowhatta, Lal Bazaar and Barbar Shah areas.

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