The unilateral ceasefire called by the central government during the month of Ramadan in Kashmir is welcome. Kashmir has been caught in a ferocious web of violence, and in recent times it has only but gone up. Around 150 people including civilians, militants and security personnel have died and scores others, mostly civilians, have been wounded during the violence on different occasions across Kashmir since January this year. The mounting civilian casualties have subjected the government to intense scrutiny and it is costing the country’s image, locally, nationally and internationally. It is not going overboard to say that Kashmir killings have social approval in India, and the way India as the State and Society reacts to such killings have made the people in Kashmir believe that India is at war with them. Since Amarnath Yatra is likely to begin next month, managing it smoothly in the thick of a violent atmosphere is not easy. Amarnath Yatra over the years has turned into a national political affair; any inconvenience in conducting it would have dangerous national ramifications. It is most likely that the central government might have heavily weighing this too on its mind while calling for the ceasefire. The call for ceasefire was made by pro India political outfits, in all-party meeting, chaired by chief minister Mahbooba Mufti on May 9 following the killing and wounding of several civilians during a clash between militants and security forces in Shopian on May 1. The way the central government accepted the demand indicates that it was already seized with the gravity of the situation. The BJP which is a part of the government in the state initially maintained silence on the issue. In fact, deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta was by the side of the chief minister when she briefed the media on the demand for ceasefire after the meeting. It was only a day later that BJP’s JK chapter, for organizational requirements, distanced from the demand, maintaining that there was no consensus and that the BJP would oppose such a demand “tooth and nail”. BJP’s rise on the political and power scene is seen as the result of its extremist posturing on issues like Kashmir, Pakistan, in particular and Muslim and other minorities of India in general. Any dilution of these issues by the party would be viewed as U-turn by its supporters. Some sections of the BJP are disturbed by the development. The BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav has publicly opposed the ceasefire. Senior army authorities are reported to have accepted it quite reluctantly. Anyway, it is a very important thing that wise minds could have expected to happen.
It is quite premature to say whether the ceasefire actually holds on ground. On the very day when home minister Rajnath Singh ordered security forces operating in Kashmir to stop anti militancy operations for the month of Ramazan, a clash broke out between militants and army in a Shopian village. The previous night, security forces conducted search operation in north Kashmir’s Hajin area. Let we presume that the ceasefire prevails in true sense. But the million dollar question is what after Ramazan or Yatra? Should Kashmir singe again in the violent inferno? To make peace a permanent thing in Kashmir, New Delhi needs to move beyond provisional requirements. Kashmir is not a problem between militants and security forces that holding back guns by them would bring peace. Kashmir as a problem is in the DNA of the people, irrespective of their political affiliations. It needs a bold political initiative supported by measures like ceasefire at all levels—with Pakistan and within Kashmir. The separatist leaders have said that ceasefire without any political follow-up would be meaningless. That gives one the moment to understand the mood of the people. It sufficiently indicates that the people in Kashmir vie for a serious political approach in dealing with Kashmir. And any such effort could bring no results unless Pakistan is involved. A serious and sincere dialogue process with Pakistan and with leadership of Kashmir is the only way that could lead to peace.