New Delhi/Srinagar, Jun 17: The suspension of offensive operations in Jammu & Kashmir announced to break the cycle of violence and provide a peaceful atmosphere during Ramzan got over at midnight on Saturday amid a strong possibility of security forces renewing strikes against terrorists.
An official announcement is expected only on Sunday, with indications that Union home minister Rajnath Singh may spell out the government’s stance.
However, talking to TOI, a top government functionary emphasised that the initiative was taken out of deference to religious sentiments of the people related to the Ramzan-Eid period, hinting that the “Ramzan ceasefire” during which security forces exercised restraint was likely to come to end at midnight on Saturday.
Sources confirmed security forces will resume operations across the state against terrorist organisations.
They pointed out that cessation of operations by the security forces was supposed to a be a confidence-building measure but was reciprocated neither by terrorists nor separatist elements like the Hurriyat.
The spike in targeted violence was evident even on Saturday when Eid festivities in the valley were marred by clashes between protesters and security forces.
One person was killed in a grenade blast in Anantnag district.
In all, 22 people, including eleven policemen, were injured as stone-pelting youths clashed with security personnel at various places in the valley.
Pakistani troops violated ceasefire yet again, targeting apatrol party along the LoC in Rajouri, which claimed the life of 21-year-old Army jawan Bikas Gurung. Militants also fired at a security forces at Lasjan on the outskirts of Srinagar, injuring a CRPF jawan.
There were reports of stone-pelters clashing with security forces soon after Eid prayers in downtown Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore, Anantnag and Kupwara.
The hiatus in operations did not extend to situations where there was an imminent threat of terror strikes or when hard intelligence pointed to the presence of foreign terrorists at a particular location. Still, restraint put on the forces on conducting cordon-and-search-operations in builtup areas of the Valley was used by terror outfits to extend the arc of violence from villages to cities like Srinagar.
Evidence of the determination of Pakistan-backed separatists and terror groups to oppose the initiative was taken note of by the government as also inputs of plans to target the Amarnath yatra.
This was seen as a matter of concern as any untoward incident during the yatra would have been linked to the restrictions on security forces.
The Ramzan period saw grenade attacks and the targeted killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari, who had supported the cessation of operations while solider Aurangzeb was kidnapped and killed.
This further vitiated the atmosphere just on the eve of Eid.
The home ministry’s final call is set to be guided by concerns for security for the yatra.
While an attack on the annual pilgrimage cannot be ruled out, any terror strike on Shiva devotees with a truce in place is bound to have political consequences for BJP.
There is a firm view within the political leadership that troops guarding the yatra route would have to be in the aggressive mode to sanitise the route.
A crackdown is expected to assuage the Hindutva constituency that there had been a softening of the tough approach towards the militancy in J&K.
The decision would come against the backdrop of the PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu & Kashmir having virtually run its entire course.
With the LS polls nearing, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti cannot seek votes in the company of BJP and still protect herself from the charge of a “sell-out” and ward off rival NC.
The estimate here is that coming 3-4 months may see her shore up her hard-line credentials by striking discordant notes with BJP.
The resumption of operations will help cushion BJP against any sudden, dramatic barbs by Mehbooba. Wellplaced sources said the coming days in J&K may turn out to be “action-filled”.
The Centre, nevertheless, felt the peace initiative was worth it. The recent violent incidents in J&K seem to have also dimmed the chances of a dialogue with the Hurriyat. (ToI)