For south Kashmir, ceasefire means cessation of encounters; ‘everything else is unimproved’
Anantnag, May 30: Contrary to what is being projected, the Ramadan ceasefire has hardly brought any relief to south Kashmir from the daily harassment meted out by the government forces.
On May 16, a day before the Ramadan, New Delhi agreed to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s appeal for maintaining a “unilateral ceasefire” in the holy month.
Mehbooba welcomed the decision, which, as per her, was going to “bring a relief” to the people.
A Home Ministry spokesman had stated that the decision was taken to help the “peace-loving Muslims observe Ramadan in a peaceful environment”.
Two weeks later, The Kashmir Monitor spoke with a number of youth in several south Kashmir districts.
According to them, however, there has hardly been any let up in frisking, raids, arrests, and vandalising of the public property by the forces.
“Since Day 1 of the Ramadan, as many as 12 youth have been arrested, two of whom are juveniles,” said a youth from Khudwani, Kulgam, who, fearing reprisal, did not wish to be named.
Four among the detained, the youth said, were released the last week, while the remaining eight continue to be in the custody.
“One of them is the brother of slain LeT militant Junaid Mattoo. The two juveniles are from Qaimoh’s Kawaki Bazar and Ghat areas,” the youth said.
He said the Rashtriya Rifles posted near the SKUAST Research Centre continued to harass every second passerby.
“They check our identity cards and phones. It has almost become a daily affair,” the youth said.
As per him, the situation was similar in Redwani, Qoimoh, and other adjacent areas of the district.
Next to Kulgam, Shopian, too, does not see any improvement in the overall situation.
“I do not see any change, except that the encounters haven’t happened since it (ceasefire) started. If you ask me, the incidents of civilian harassment have, instead, increased during this time,” said Ishtiyaq, a Shopian youth who wanted to be quoted with his first name only.
He referred to the Monday’s incident, in which the army had wreaked havoc in the district’s Sugan hamlet after three of its personnel were injured in an IED blast.
“They first uprooted dozens of apple trees stretched on around 18 kanals of land. Then they barged into our homes and destroyed everything that came in their way including washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, kitchen whatnots, even cars and scooters. What sort of ceasefire is this?” he said.
A week prior to the incident, the army has fired upon the civilians in DK Pora area of the district after the residents objected to its “iftar party”.
At least two girls were hit with bullets during the incident.
In Anantnag’s Dialgam area, a local Yasir Rather said, the civilians continued to face harassment by the CRPF troopers stationed nearby.
“They check our cards and phones, and if they find a photo or a video relating to Kashmir, they beat us up. It used to happen, and it continues to happen now,” he said.
Another youth, Asif Hamid, of the district’s Qazigund area, said: “Even as the search operations have decreased, the harassment by the forces has not.”