Indian home ministry says its soldiers have been asked to halt military operations during the holy month of Ramadan, but warns that it will retaliate if rebels attack them in the disputed region.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding India-administered Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country in a UN-brokered plebiscite.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding India-administered Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country in a UN-brokered plebiscite. ( AP Archive )

India announced a conditional ceasefire in India-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, lasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, but warned its soldiers will retaliate if attacked in the disputed region.

The Indian home ministry announced the decision in a series of tweets, almost a week after top elected official, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, urged the federal government to halt military operations in the Himalayan region during the Muslim month of fasting and the upcoming Hindu pilgrimage.

New Delhi said the decision was taken to help the "peace-loving Muslims" observe Ramadan in a peaceful environment but said its "security forces reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people."

Immediately after the announcement, there were reports of a gun battle between rebels and Indian soldiers in Shopian district. 

Deadly violence

Tensions have been high in the region after the killing of civilians and anti-India rebels during gun battles and protests on May 6. 

One of the slain rebels included a sociologist professor Mohammad Rafi Bhat, who had joined pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen group a few days before he was killed.

Since January 2018, 72 rebels, 32 civilians and 28 Indian police and military were killed in various gun battles, The Kashmir Press reported, quoting Indian home ministry figures. 

For almost a decade now, Indian soliders have been battling local rebels who are generally highly educated individuals, hailing from wealthy families. 

Last year, about 270 rebels, mostly local, were killed in a practice which was previously abandoned by the Indian military.

Cordon and search operations or CASO, was reintroduced as a permanent military practice last year.

The practice is basically a raid conducted by the military in which they cordon off villages and urban areas and search people and homes.

Growing anger over human rights violations during CASO caused outrage and eventually led it to its abandonment 15 years ago.

Thousands of Kashmiris participate in the funeral of slain rebel commanders Saddam Padder and Bilal Ahmad, who were killed in an encounter with Indian soldiers, in Shopian district earlier this month.
Thousands of Kashmiris participate in the funeral of slain rebel commanders Saddam Padder and Bilal Ahmad, who were killed in an encounter with Indian soldiers, in Shopian district earlier this month. ( AFP )

New age rebellion

India and Pakistan each administer a part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding India-administered Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country in a UN-brokered plebiscite. 

Since the killing of popular rebel commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in 2016, there have been renewed rebel attacks and public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, has renewed the rebellion and challenged New Delhi's rule with guns and effective use of social media.

India, which has stationed over 500,000 troops in the disputed region, accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels – a charge Pakistan denies. Islamabad says it only offers moral, political, and diplomatic support to Kashmiris. 

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Source: TRT World