Amnesty For Terrorists!
Early this year, when Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah mooted the political plan to encourage the return of Kashmiri men to the state from Pakistan held Kashmir and manage their transition to civilian life, it was branded as a political rhetoric of the naive young man, who is learning political gimmicks to gain his lost ground. But, months later, after approval from New Delhi, an amnesty policy has been introduced for terrorists who have allegedly trained in Pakistani-administered Kashmir between the period of 1989 and 2009 and wish to return. With the backing of Home Minister, P Chidambaram, after hectic parleys with the Army and other security agencies in the state, the Union Home Ministry had given its consent to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to go ahead with the policy.
“Majority of the misguided Kashmiri youths stranded in Pakistan are looking for an escape, but are helpless and can’t do anything,” said a senior state intelligence officer. There are over estimated 3000 of locals based in other side of Kashmir, according to state police. The District Superintendent of Police of the concerned district, where the prospective returnee normally resided before crossing over to Pakistan would be the designated authority to whom the parents or close relatives (in case there are no parents) of the prospective returnee or, in exception circumstances, the prospective returnee himself may apply in the prescribed proforma.
“All such applications would be first scrutinised by the District Superintendents of Police and then forwarded to CID headquarters along with their comments. The State CID will then scrutinise all the applications in consultation with the Central Intelligence/Security Forces, and review the cases registered against the persons and prepare a dossier based on which a recommendation will be made about whether the prospective returnee can be permitted to return,” the sources said. “The returnees could come only through Wagah, Attari, border opening points, Salamabad or Chakan-da-Bagh along the Line of Control or through the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi”, the sources said quoting the policy. The terrorists will have to make their own arrangements to reach these places.
A record of their entry into India and Jammu and Kashmir would be recorded at the crossing points. There are however certain do’s and don’ts that the returnees have to follow like “eschew arms and violence”, “accept the integrity of India” and its Constitution. Interestingly, in the state where the daughters, who married a non-state subject were made to lose their citizenship rights, the wives and children of the terrorists who have married in Pakistan Kashmir would also benefit from the rehabilitation policy approved by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
“A number of terrorists also got married to Pakistani nationals and accordingly arrangements would be made for their safe return to Jammu and Kashmir along with their spouses and children,” a source said. Counselling centers will be established, where all the returnees along with their wives and children would be lodged for a period of three months or for such longer time as would be necessary till they are thoroughly interviewed/de-briefed and all necessary documentation is prepared.
The state government will make the policy and the application forms available on the internet so as to facilitate online registration by the returnees and their family members eligible to apply. The Ministry of Home Affairs will forward the details of permitted returnees to Ministry of External Affairs, which will communicate the information to the concerned mission so that action to facilitate the return can be taken. The MHA will also notify the entry points to be used by individual returnees and inform MEA, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Bureau of Immigration and IB.
On application, the High Commission of India, Islamabad, will issue the returnee an emergency certificate. The returnees will be given training in suitable trades or skills in ITIs or other training institutions in order to enable their re-integration into society. Local police and state CID will closely monitor the conduct and behaviour of the returnees for a period of two years from the completion of the counselling process.
This policy, which is being projected as a goodwill gesture by the Omar Abdullah government, has its roots in the rehabilitation policy adopted by the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed administration in January 2004. Under it, terrorists seeking to join the mainstream were to get Rs 150,000 as fixed deposit in banks and a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 until self-employment opportunities were created for them. They were also to be given preferences in government jobs. However, that policy did not take off, as not many terrorists came forward to take advantage of it and those who did finally didn’t get the promised benefits.
According to the policy, any terrorist desirous of returning can inform his family or relatives here of his intention. A senior state government minister told this correspondent that the process of screening such people would be “very strict” and would involve various security and intelligence agencies. “We have to be sure that only genuine people make use of [it],” the minister said.
Unlike rehabilitation policies by previous regimes, those who return would not receive any monetary incentives. However, experts feel that Pakistan may create obstacles in the return of such youth because allowing them to do so will amount to acknowledging the fact that the country has been providing arms training to Kashmiri youth at various terror camps on its soil. Omar, in the recent past, had also said that by putting in place such a policy, the illegal entry of the youth, who were entering the state via Nepal, Bangladesh and other places on fake documents would be checked. A senior minister said on condition of anonymity that the policy may generate goodwill for the government but has little chance of succeeding. “It’s not as business transaction that Pakistan will allow. It has brainwashed and lured these youths to cross the LoC. Do you think it will give them free passage to go back?” he said. Kashmir observers believe that It has also been an attempt to soothe anger in Kashmir, where “fake encounters and civilian deaths”, blamed on security forces, have fuelled anti-India sentiment. Though, no Indian military officer was ready to talk on the issue, according to Indian intelligence officials in the state, a number of terrorists in Pakistan administered Kashmir have expressed their willingness to surrender through various modes of communications with their families. Officials privately maintain that many parents from various parts of the state have been approaching them to facilitate the return of their sons from Pakistan.
Sources revealed that about four years ago, the Indian Army had taken a piece-meal initiative and till June 2007, nearly 170 had surrendered on the Line of Control before this scheme had to be abandoned during the PDP- Congress led rule in the state. A quite movement is underway in Jammu and Kashmir one that has no political father, although it is borne by a primal desire that of a return to the homeland. Young Kashmiri men from Pakistan, in their ones and twos, have been returning home to the Indian side after spending the prime of their lives in “training camps” there. They catch flights from Pakistan to Nepal and enter India via the border town of Sonali to reach the Kashmir Valley. Having given up terrorism, most of these returnees turn themselves in at police stations, desirous of leading “normal” lives alongside their families. Some get arrested by the police before they can surrender.
Some have also brought with them wives and children raised across the Line of Control (LoC). During the early 1990s, tens of thousands of Kashmiri youth made the most hazardous journey of their lives through the high mountain passes, to cross the heavily terrorised LoC that divides the two sides driven by the dream of “liberating” Kashmir from India. Now they return with cautious yet unambiguous political views, clear in their minds that an armed tehreek (movement) could never change their political status.
Shamim Ahmed Sheikh returned home to his impoverished Tchoont Pathri village, Baba Reshi, Baramulla District. Begum Zamrooda, an 80 years elderly woman residing in the frontier district of Baramulla, has three sons among the two sons namely Nazir and Shabir have crossed over to the PoK for arms training in some nineties. Some 20 years has passed, she has a grim picture of their faces in her mind but still she lives with the hope that some day they will come and she loves them as ever.
“I am very happy and can’t express my emotions. I pray to God that the day would come soon when this formula will turn into reality. This is a dream of mother before falling to death. I wish to see my sons in-front of me once at all,” said Zamrooda Begum. Like Begum Zamrooda, scores of mothers have painful heart to narrate their agony. Apart from those having gone there for armed training, there are hundreds of persons, who had crossed the LoC for economic and social reasons.
“When I was in PoK, I was fed up with my life, many times I thought of committing suicide, but I couldn’t make it and finally at the end, one day I shared my irony with my family on phone and decided to come back home. Hence my father, Abdul Aziz, consult some army official for my surrender on the Line of Control. My father was asked to fix a date, when army will receive me on Line of Control. Hence, the day came and I got successful to come back home. After some days, I was released to open air to begin my life again within my family and my own people,” said Inayatullah Qazi, a misguided Kashmiri youth who was based in PoK. He has stated that there were many like him but were helpless.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Jammu