Proposing Ceasefire

The idea of unilateral ceasefire is not new in war. During the Vietnam War American troops and Vietnamese guerillas observed ceasefire on more than one occasion, particularly on the eve of religious and new year festivities. The logic of protracted engagement demands ceasefire and it allows breathing space for the warriors on both sides of the divide as also much needed respite for ordinary people who suffer most in war. That Pakistan and India frequently violate ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) is a different matter. Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's proposal on behalf of all political parties to consider a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir starting from Ramzan in mid-May till the completion of Amarnath Yatra in August is at best a modest appeal to the Centre. But the Modis are unlikely to see reason in ceasefire. While Mehbooba announced the proposal after an all-party meet on May 9, her coalition partner—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) disagreed with the proposal that the Centre should support Mehbooba's recommendation for creating an atmosphere of peace. BJP's counter proposal was to send an all-party delegation to New Delhi to meet prime minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue of recent spurt in violence, not ceasefire.

Mehbooba's move, however, tempted the former chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah to dub Mehbooba's move as populism without any subatance. Abdullah said, somewhat out of context, 'she would shamelessly cling to power even as her party's coalition partner BJP didn't agree with her'. BJP's disagreement cannot be an argument to block peace initiative in the form of ceasefire.

Opposition in almost all states bank on one point agitation against the ruling dispensation—law and order and failure of governance. And Abdullah is no exception. Being in opposition what else can he do other than periodically demanding resignation of chief minister. But Omar's alliance partner Congress didn't oppose the peace initiative. The BJP has its own hidden agenda to oppose unilateral ceasefire which they see as a defeat of Modi's military might. Much to the dismay of opponents of ceasefire democrats and liberals across the country welcomed the much desired peace move. Ceasefire is one way to tell the world that antagonistic contradictions can be turned into non-antagonistic contradictions at least for a short period, if all are sincere enough to give peace a chance.

By opposing unilateral ceasefire the saffronites want to keep the situation supercharged so that security forces can indulge in violence under any flimsy pretext, stone pelting by school boys or something else. The Centre has nothing to lose even if the ultras refuse to shun the path of violence and ignore ceasefire. People who are caught in crossfire will certainly welcome any move that helps bring normalcy in the valley. Mehbooba's earlier move to withdraw, at least partially and selectively in some comparatively less violent prone areas, the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) fell flat. The Centre didn't respond. But the government in New Delhi is totally isolated from the broad masses of Kashmir because mainly of AFSPA. So long as AFPSA remains in force, no amount of political jugglery is enough to hide the inhuman face of Indian military. Not that all ‘separatists’ in J&K demand integration with Pakistan. There are people who are against Pakistan, they want to be heard not at the point of guns. They are opposed to manipulated democracy. Nor do they subscribe to Pakistan's overlordism couched in the language of religious fanaticism or what one may call jihad.

For one thing the coalition of Mehbooba's People's Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP is no answer to people who want greater autonomy, not just protection under Article 370. But BJP despite being in coalition on certain conditions is doing many a thing dubious to abolish whatever remains of autonomy by systematically diluting Article 370 while threatening, veiled or otherwise, to carve out hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh from Kashmir.

The Centre's attempts since the days of Nehru, to forcibly integrate Kashmir with what they call mainstream India have failed. More they talk of integration while increasing the presence of troops, more they get alienated from the people of Kashmir.

Once upon a time political space for the Left was not that insignificant in the Kashmir valley. It's no more. The Left has long lost relevance in the valley. They do hardly address people's pressing problems. For the Kasmiris 'political prisoner' is a serious issue—it is a life and death question for hundreds of ordinary families. And yet the leftists never agitate for the unconditional release of political prisoners. They too like the sultans of Delhi think all prisoners are 'terrorists'. Even in their all India agitational action they hardly raise the issue of prison population of Kashmiri youth. Their members in parliament are worried about the fate of Iranian nuclear deal but they have no time to tell the plight of bereaved Kashmiri mothers who have lost their sons. Not that Kashmir is a land of educated youth who are attracted to violence. Not that middle class is the only oppressed section of the Kashmiri society. There are workers, there are peasants. They have short term problems and long term problems as well. And today left has virtually no presence among basic masses. Finally the Centre asked the Army and Security Forces not to launch operation during the month of Ramzan, responding partially to Mehbooba’s appeal.

There is no need for ceasefire for the sake of ceasefire. Ceasefire must be cohesive enough to withstand both interim discord and external attacks and at the same time embody a clear objective—in this case it can't be anything but 'lasting peace and democracy'. 


Vol. 50, No.46, May 20 - 26, 2018