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No operations by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir during Ramzan: Centre

However, the Centre has said that the security forces stationed in J&K "reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people".

 No operations by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir during Ramzan: Centre
Representational image (File photo)

New Delhi: The Centre has asked security forces not to launch operations against terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that the decision has been taken to help the "peace-loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment". Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, too, has been informed of the decision by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

However, the Centre has said that the security forces "reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people". Known as Ramzan or Ramadan, the Muslim holy month will start on Thursday.

Welcoming the decision by the Centre, Mufti said, "I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire and would like to thank PM and Home Minister for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders and parties who participated in the All Party Meeting and helped build consensus towards this announcement."

Just a few days ago, Mehbooba Mufti had demanded a unilateral ceasefire by the security forces during Ramzan and Amarnath yatra in the state. But the Centre was initially not too keen on offering an olive branch to the terror groups pointing out that the situation in the state was not conducive for a ceasefire and such an exercise undertaken in 2000 had not given the desired results.

Senior government officials had said there was no guarantee that the Pakistan-based terror groups would reciprocate if the Centre agrees to the state government's request for a ceasefire. Recalling the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO), announced by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000, a senior government functionary said there was a major terror attack at the Srinagar airport during the crucial four-month period 18 years ago and the announcement of such a decision now may be termed as a "weakness" in the current situation in the state.

"Almost all terrorist groups operating in the Valley in 2000 had rejected the government offer. Many still recall that during the four-month period, terrorists were roaming freely in Kashmir. Is there any guarantee that such a situation would not repeat now," the official said requesting anonymity.

Six terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba had attacked the Srinagar airport when the ceasefire was in force in 2000 in which two security personnel and two civilians were killed. All six terrorists were also killed in the retaliatory firing.

Another official described the prevailing situation in Kashmir Valley as "turbulent" where nearly 80 incidents of violence occurred in last four months and civilians were often seen coming out to encounter sites to stage protests with the intention of giving the militants an opportunity to escape.

Under such circumstances, the announcement of a ceasefire may be seen as "weakness" on the part of the government, the official said and cited a series of brazen militant attacks including the killing of eight Amarnath pilgrims in 2017. The official, however, asserted that it would be a political decision and would be taken at the highest level of the government.

After an all-party meeting, Mufti had said that the central government should consider a unilateral ceasefire in the state starting from Ramadan in mid-May till the completion of the Amarnath yatra in August.

"Everyone (all parties) agreed that we should appeal to the Centre to consider a ceasefire like the unilateral ceasefire in (former PM Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's time in Ramadan (later this month) till Amarnath yatra and Eid," she said. Mehbooba said a ceasefire would provide relief to the people and help create a better atmosphere in the state. "The Centre should think on these lines so that the common people get some relief because they are facing many difficulties due to encounters, crackdowns and search operations," she said.

The Valley has witnessed the killing of over 55 militants including at least 27 locals till May 15, 2018.

(With inputs from PTI)