GOWHAR GEELANI | 29 MAY, 2018
Time for Delhi to walk the talk
SRINAGAR: On May 16, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh sent out a tweet which caught many by surprise.
Singh wrote “The Centre asks Security Forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment. HM Shri @rajnathsingh has informed the Chief Minister, J&K of Centre’s decision.”
Though he was quick to add, “Security Forces to reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties.”
Singh’s announcement “not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan” on Twitter was interpreted as ‘Ramzan Ceasefire’ by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and The Hindu editorial, ‘cessation of cordon and search operations’ by defence analysts, and a ‘halt to anti-militancy operations’ within the Kashmir Valley by key observers.
Generally speaking, this unilateral offer to temporarily stop anti-militancy operations was seen with a mix of suspicion and hope on Kashmir’s turf.
Many heaved a sigh of relief at the very thought of a momentary stop to the usual incidents of receiving body bags of Kashmir’s young.
Some hoped that this ‘island of calm’ will pave the way for a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir.
Others argued that Delhi, after consultations with the regional partner, PDP, wanted something to sell to the people of Kashmir following two straight years of unending violence against the people of Kashmir—the violence which witnessed killing of 700 people that included 465 militants and 235 civilians since the beginning of 2016.
Another viewpoint was that the PDP wanted to build an atmosphere to conduct by-polls in south Kashmir’s Anantnag parliamentary constituency.
On seeing its space shrinking in Kashmir’s political landscape the party hoped that there will be no repeat of what happened in Budgam by-poll when 2 per cent and 7 per cent voter turnout was witnessed in two phases respectively amid violence and civilian killings in April 2017.
The PDP, according to this view, also wanted to reclaim the political space that the party has lost in south Kashmir, once described as its bastion, by facilitating environment for its MLAs to go before the people it has abandoned since it came to power in March 2015.
Be that as it may, the general feeling among the common people was that let peace be given a chance. And some hailed the offer openly while others extended tacit support without being too vocal about it.
The question that follows is: who violated the ‘ceasefire’ first? Who provoked people?
True, that militant organisations like Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) and al-Umar Mujahideen rejected Delhi’s offer.
But there was almost a tacit approval to the offer of ‘cessation of hostilities’ by Kashmir’s civil society coalitions, resistance camp, and also Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
What changed on the ground after May 16?
Six days after Singh offered Delhi’s ‘Ramzan ceasefire’ to Kashmir, the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency force, 34 Rashtriya Rifles, in a massive provocation to people’s sensibilities erected a tent outside a mosque in Shopian’s D K Pora area.
Troops wanted to host an Iftar feast for the locals. But, according to eyewitnesses, the local residents had objected to it. They had telegraphed their disinterest to the Army’s local unit.
When locals objected to Indian Army’s Iftar feast, the troopers fired at civilians which resulted in causing bullet injuries to four women, including two sisters.
Civilians were obviously protesting an iftar feast organised by 34 Rashtriya Rifles, according to J&K police.
This was provocation number one.
Then, on May 23, Indian Army’s notorious serving Major Leetul Gogoi was caught with a woman in civvies at a hotel in Srinagar.
Already under fire for using a Kashmiri civilian Farooq Dar as human shield in April last year, Gogoi did not care about people’s sensibilities and sensitivities involved and also showed utter disregard to the holy month of Ramzan by taking a woman to a hotel while posing as a businessman.
This was provocation number two.
After this, the paramilitary personnel and local cops went berserk outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on May 25, Friday.
They fired pellets, tear gas shells and PAVA shells on people and a small group of civilian protesters.
The bone chilling videos showed blood splattered on the floor of historic mosque while the pictures captured the horrible moment when tear gas shells hit the mosque’s rooftop.
Hospital sources said that at least 50 civilians were injured, which mostly included women worshippers and youth who had gathered to offer Friday prayers inside Jamia Masjid.
Indeed, the attack on the Jamia Masjid was an assault on the Kashmiris’ faith, culture, social fabric and also an infringement of their right to offer prayers freely.
This was provocation number three.
Moreover, some rabid members of a particular community kept on spreading fake news about imaginary attacks on paramilitary CRPF in Pampore and Srinagar.
Sushil Pandit wrote on Twitter that “five CRPF jawans are martyred” in a militant attack in Pampore when no such attack had taken place.
Then associate editor of The Republic TV Aditya Raj Kaul took to Twitter to make a road accident involving a CRPF vehicle in Bemina Srinagar look like an attack by stone throwing youth. Kaul neither bothered to cross-check facts nor watch the CCTV footage which clearly showed it was a tragic road accident wherein the driver had lost control on the wheels.
This was provocation number four.
Then, there was also violation of the ‘Ramzan ceasefire’ by suspected militants when they attacked an Indian Army camp at Kakapora Pulwama on 27 May and also a latest attack in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on 28 May.
Instead of blaming Kashmiris for everything, New Delhi needs to look within and introspect why there is a chasm between what it says and what it does.
Here a quote from Desmond Tutu will be helpful: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
Still, not much is lost.
The ground can be prepared for a meaningful dialogue with the aim to resolve the Kashmir dispute, not to engage stakeholders for a photo op.
Since the resistance camp comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik besides Shabir Shah’s Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) have responded positively to the dialogue offer, the ball again is in Delhi’s court.
It is time for Delhi to walk the talk!