16 May 2018 - 17:32
India declares cease-fire in Kashmir during Ramadan
By Aijaz Hussain I Associated Press
SRINAGAR, India: India announced Wednesday that its troops will halt counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
There was no immediate comment from rebel groups that are fighting against Indian rule in the region.
The last cease-fire in counterinsurgency operations declared by India for Ramadan was in 2000. India and Pakistan signed a cease-fire between their forces in 2003, but India has continued to battle rebels seeking an end to Indian control.
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 Indian troops "reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people."
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.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, India's ruling party, opposed the move in the meeting. This year, fasting begins Thursday or Friday in Kashmir.
In recent years, there have 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 use of social media.
Indian authorities have been increasingly frustrated by the resistance shown by 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.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Rebels have been fighting 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 Indian control.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.