Shujaat Bukhari murder, recent violence in Kashmir highlights fallacy of lauding success of Ramzan ceasefire

The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, has announced that Eid will be celebrated on 16 June. While the Centre is still mulling the decision to extend the Ramzan ceasefire, violence, it appears, is back with a vengeance in the Kashmir Valley.

The bullet-riddled body of Sepoy Aurangzeb of Rashtriya Rifles, earlier abducted while travelling in a private vehicle near Shopian in south Kashmir, was found at Gusoo in Pulwama area. A native of Poonch area, Aurangzeb was headed home for Eid when his vehicle was intercepted by some three heavily armed militants. He was part of an encounter during May this year in which Hizbul Mujahideen's Sameer Tiger was killed.

 Shujaat Bukhari murder, recent violence in Kashmir highlights fallacy of lauding success of Ramzan ceasefire

Representational image. AP

Then, on 14 June, Shujaat Bukhari, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Rising Kashmir, was shot dead at Srinagar Press Colony in Lal Chowk area along with his two personal security officers (PSOs). One PSO died on the spot while the other succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. The killing was done by three men who escaped on a motorcycle with a weapon of one of the PSOs.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's ceasefire violations and infiltration bids are continuing unabated. Some 225 terrorists are reportedly looking for a chance to infiltrate into India. A BSF assistant commandant and another three BSF personnel were killed while five were injured in Pakistani shelling on 13 June in Ramgarh and Chambiyal sectors of Samba in Jammu region.

Such firing is always replied to and figures of Pakistani casualties are often flashed in media, albeit such figures are probably guessed or partly ascertained through intercepts. Take it for what it is worth but one foreign estimate states that casualties inflicted on the Indian side remain higher, which could be true since Pakistan usually breaches the ceasefire first, catching personnel and civilians out in the open. Pakistan has even indulged in calling for a truce and later engaging multiple locations with heavy fire.

That the Ramzan ceasefire would provide ample opportunity to terrorists to regroup was a foregone conclusion, cautioned but ignored. The irony is that even despite the above incidents, the 'devotees', including some military veterans, continue to script that overall violent incidents were not very many and that the Ramzan ceasefire was a good idea.

In actual fact, the ceasefire or NICO (non-initiation of combat operations) wiped out the gains of having killed some 200 terrorists. On top of the amnesty to stone-pelters coupled with soaring radicalisation, it is providing motivation to the Valley's youths to pick up guns.

Yes, the Ramzan ceasefire would have been good had Chief Minister Mehbooba Mehbooba, her MLAs and the administration reached out to the public. But nothing of the sort happened – it was not expected either, given past history. Hence, the possible gains were out of the question.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) are both fence sitters, enjoying the fruits of the insurgency. The PDP came up with Hizbul support and both are inexorably linked. And, proof already exists that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul are jointly working to attack India. So, the circle is complete, with ISI masterminding the show and Hurriyat sold on Pakistan. The PDP has also lost no opportunity in cocking a snoot at the Centre.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh's recent two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir has also been covered in these columns. While some Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) friends are euphoric at the prospect of nine more battalions being raised, the success model of BSF battalions raised from erstwhile Naga militants in the North East can hardly be transported to Kashmir, given the prevailing environment, radicalisation and level of militancy, in addition to ISI inroads into the Valley. Incidentally, while Rajnath talked a lot about a financial package for refugees etc, BJP's 2014 clarion call about Kashmiri Pandit's return appears lost in the din of elections.

There is also a view proposing a pro-active role of the Ulema and religious heads on the pattern of the role played by the Baptist Church in restoring peace in Nagaland, which is a good suggestion. But the problem in Kashmir is that the Ulema following Sufi culture has been systematically replaced by hardcore Wahabis. It is by design and there are reports of some of them moving into Jammu region to radicalise the Bakarwals as well.

Not that the Ulema cannot still be used, but will probably require the 'Mutt and Jeff' technique, which the state government will not do and the Centre appears incapable of doing. Mehbooba is quite happy with the current state of affairs. That is why she sacked her finance minister, Haseeb Drabu. She asked people to introspect over the nature and origins of the situation in the state and how it can be resolved, stressing Kashmir is "not a political issue" but a society which has social issues right now.

The circle of violence can be expected to grow, though the security forces will as always prevail. On whose hands is the blood of Aurangzeb and Bukhari and whether such violence could have happened without NICO is for the readers to decide. But certainly, the Centre needs to rethink how to handle Kashmir and Pakistan. Given the current policy, the downward slide is likely to continue.

The author is a veteran lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2018 15:41:38 IST