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India declares ceasefire in Occupied Kashmir

Occupied Kashmir
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On Wednesday, India announced that its troops will halt counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan –  its first such declaration in 18 years. However, according to the newspaper, ‘Greater Kashmir,’ a prominent rebel group called Lashkar-e-Taiba rejected the offer, calling it a “drama.”

The last cease-fire in counterinsurgency operations, declared by India, for Ramadan was in 2000. India and Pakistan declared a cease-fire between their forces in 2003 as well, but India has continued to battle rebels seeking the right to self-determination.

India’s home ministry said, in a series of tweets, that the decision was made so Muslims could observe the holy month “in a peaceful environment.” Another tweet said that the Indian troops “reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if it proves to be essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”

The Indian militarization was unable to break the will of the Kashmiri populace desiring self-determination. Despite agreeing to an UN-ordered plebiscite, India has not fulfilled its promise and instead, it turned Kashmir into the most militarized zone on Earth.

The announcement came a week after all pro-India political parties in Kashmir, including the ruling People’s Democratic Party which vaulted to power by forming an alliance with the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, urged the Indian government to cease counterinsurgency operations during Ramadan. This year, fasting begins Thursday or Friday in Kashmir.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party, opposed the move in a meeting.. The top elected official of the Indian-controlled Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, hailed the Ramadan cease-fire and thanked India’s Prime Minister and home minister “for their personal intervention.” Lashkar-e-Taiba said a cease-fire was “no option and no thought can be given on such compromise.”

“We deem it a sin and disgrace to the sacrifices put up in the freedom struggle,” said the group which India accuses of launching attacks in the city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed at least 166 people. The group said they favor negotiations “but not in the presence of armed forces in the region.” Reactions from Kashmir residents were mixed.

Indian authorities and Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest indigenous militant group, both briefly stopped fighting in 2000. However, the conflict has never shown any serious sign of ending. Violence escalated after Indian troops killed a top militant commander in a 2016 gunfight that led to months of street protests in which scores of demonstrators were killed.

Dozens of young men have since joined militant groups and there are now almost daily gunfights between armed rebels and Indian soldiers. More than 200 militants and 57 civilians were killed in 2017. In recent years, there has been renewed rebel attacks and public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, revive the militancy and challenge New Delhi’s rule with guns and the use of social media.

Read more: Former Indian Occupied Kashmir Chief Minister denies Modi’s claims

Indian authorities have been increasingly frustrated by the resistance shown by the Kashmiri residents. Many Kashmiris, in open solidarity with militants, have attempted to help trapped rebels escape during military counterinsurgency operations by throwing stones at troops, who often retaliate with gunfire, causing civilian fatalities. Last year, at least 29 civilians were killed and hundreds wounded during such clashes.

The last cease-fire in counterinsurgency operations, declared by India, for Ramadan was in 2000. India and Pakistan declared a cease-fire between their forces in 2003 as well, but India has continued to battle rebels seeking the right to self-determination.

The nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting the Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or unified with the Pakistani-controlled part as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels –  a charge Pakistan denies. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against the Indian control. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Read more: Human rights abuses in Indian Occupied Kashmir (Part 2)

The region of Kashmir is a flashpoint between the two nuclear-armed powers of South Asia. The dispute began during the partition of the British occupied subcontinent due to the refusal of the area’s hereditary ruler Hari Singh to comply with his people’s wishes, which led to a rebellion. Faced with losing his fiefdom to the people’s army, aided by tribesman from across the border, the ruler acquiesced to India in return for military aid. This led to a war between the newly found India and Pakistan and later on, it led to the division of Kashmir into Azad Kashmir and IOK.

However, the Indian militarization was unable to break the will of the Kashmiri populace desiring self-determination. Despite agreeing to an UN-ordered plebiscite, India has not fulfilled its promise and instead, it turned Kashmir into the most militarized zone on Earth.


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