We couldn"t care less, say masses
21 February 2001
Srinagar: The masses here are largely indifferent to the third extension in the unilateral ceasefire. The initial cessation of combat operations against militants was welcomed in Kashmir. The announcement, after a decade of death and destruction, shed the gloom from every face. But expectations were short-lived. Violence, both by militants and security forces, was perpetuated even after repeated extensions in the ceasefire. Both the parties involved showed no sign of budging from their proclaimed stands. "We expected that the beaten track will not be traversed and efforts will be made to solve the basic Kashmir issue", said Mohammad Munwar a trade union leader. "But dreams never come true. During all these months of ceasefire, no headway has been made on the political scenario", said Munwar. The three months of truce failed to curb the level of violence. civilian casualties touched an all- time high of 253 in 85 days. As many as 401 civilians were injured in grenade blasts and cross-firing incidents during the same period. The duration saw 794 incidents of violence which claimed the lives of 57 security forces personnel, including 21 policemen, as against 218 militants. In the corresponding period prior to the cease-fire, 154 civilians, 94 security personnel and 435 militants were killed in 802 incidents of violence. The fear, which haunts Kashmiris now is that of uncertainty. They see nobody coming forward to break the ice. "The Union government failed to initiate a political dialogue in the ceasefire months. It couldn"t even release the passports of Hurriyat Conference leaders for their proposed visit to Pakistan", said Aziz Ahmad, a political science student of Kashmir University. "Extension after extension has no meaning unless it brings about a change on the ground level", said Abdul Majid, a school teacher from Sopore.