February 2001 News

Security forces against extension of truce

11 February 2001
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

New Delhi: NOW THAT the countdown has begun for the expiry of the twice extended unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, the question haunting security forces is where do they go from here. The Army has borne the brunt along with civilians in the past 10 weeks of the ceasefire that heavily restricted their freedom to strike. No pre-emptive action can be taken nor can they chase militants to an area other than incident site, be it an attack on them or on civilians. They are chained by a prominent clause in the ceasefire guideline: React only in self-defence. The officers are reluctant to spell out their feelings. In private, they admit that security forces have lost much ground and it would take several months, if not years, to retrieve the situation to the pre-ceasefire days. "We are going to regret the whole thing at the end of the day," a senior paramilitary force official said on condition of anonymity. The perception with the Army is no different. Sources in the Army disclosed that field commanders were against extension of ceasefire much before January 26, when it was extended for the second time. This was amply clear at the meeting of unified headquarters. The "people want it" argument in favour of the ceasefire was true when the announcement was made. Thereafter, they have seen the level of violence going up. In the last week alone, they have seen two massacres: Six Sikhs in Srinagar and 15 Muslim villagers in Rajouri and one suicide attack on the police control room in Srinagar. This is not unprecedented. But security forces feel fettered and frustrated due to the ceasefire restrictions. The mood of soldiers on the ground is that they were not here to "get killed as sitting ducks". Their frustration is growing. What is incomprehensible to the trained soldiers and officers is how a unilateral ceasefire can succeed when the other side is showing no signs of peace. The men on the ground are getting edgy and this is not a good sign.


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