A Policy Failure

The announcement of state government’s rehabilitation policy for ex-militants wishing to come back from PaK was hailed as a welcome step. But those who came back faced apathy from both officials and locals forcing them to rethink their decision. Shah Abbas examines the flaws that made these people to go back. 

A file photo of the families who returned back from Pakistan administered Kashmir protesting  government apathy in Srinagar. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
A file photo of the families who returned back from Pakistan administered Kashmir protesting government apathy in Srinagar.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

The arrest of four ex-militant families in Keran, while trying to exfiltrate to Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) near the Line of Control (LoC) shows how poorly conceived the state government’s ‘new surrender and rehabilitation policy’ was.

“We are even denied basic documents like identity cards, ration cards etc,” Shabana, told media persons early this year while protesting against the ‘government apathy.’

Shabana, a PaK national, married Mohammad Ashraf Mir, an ex-militant who had crossed over to Pakistan at the start of insurgence in Kashmir to get arms training.

Like Shabana, wives of former militants, demand the return of their documents including passports so that they can go back to Pakistan. “We do not need any hospitality from Kashmiris now. We have seen enough of it. We want to go back to our nation.”

When Shabana was in Pakistan, she wished to travel to Kashmir. She wanted to meet and live with her in-laws. Shabana said that she always dreamed of visiting Kashmir after her marriage. But once she returned her dreams were shattered. She never thought that she would be treated like an alien in Kashmir. Now, Shabana regrets her decision to make Kashmir her home. “It has left our once happy family shattered,” said Shabana.

“Hamare mustakbil ko tareekh bana diya” (our future has been made dark), she adds while recounting her bitter experience in Kashmir.

In the month of March 2013, the families of ‘surrendered’ militants threatened that if the ‘government apathy’ goes on, they will return to Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to get rid of their woes which were mainly the results of their return from PaK to this part of Kashmir.

And after waiting for six months, these unfortunate families comprised of ex-militants, their Pakistani wives and children have decided to cross over.

“The surrender policy has added new human tragedies to the conflict as the wives and the PaK born children of these ex-militants suffer on social and economic fronts in this part of Kashmir,” a Srinagar based Journalist, Rashid Maqbool told Kashmir Life.

Most of the analysts are of the opinion that government’s ‘new surrender and rehabilitation policy’ for Kashmiris who are in PaK has totally failed because not only a few Kashmiri youth have returned from PaK, but also the returnees are now cursing their decision of ‘believing the state government.’

After coming to Kashmir, these families are rendered helpless, both financially and emotionally. These PaK born wives of the ex-militants allege ‘unwelcoming nature’ of the locals, so they feel out of place. With the result most of these families want to go back to Muzaffarabad to live with her friends and relatives there.

Police on October 23 claimed the arrest of 23 members of four families of former militants for trying to exfiltrate to Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) through Keran sector illegally. A person who was helping them in the crossover was also arrested.

The 23 arrested include children and wives of four former militants who had returned from PaK and surrendered over the period of past few years.

The ‘surrender and Rehabilitation Policy’ approved by the state Cabinet in November 2010 after clearance from Government of India was intended to facilitate the return of former militants who belong to J&K and had crossed over to PaK and Pakistan.

It was meant for the youth who gave up the ‘idea of picking up arms due to change of heart and are willing to return’ and it is applicable to those who went to PaK between January 1, 1989 and December 31, 2009.

According to the policy the youth, allowed to return would be permitted to enter only through four entry points – Poonch, Rawalakote, Uri-Muzaffarabad, Wagah (Punjab) and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.

The policy states that the return of youth should not be misconstrued as a ‘general amnesty.’

“The youth who return under the policy will not be entitled to any of the special benefits or privileges,” the policy states.

During the last Budget session of the state legislature the government informed that during past three years 241 former militants had returned illegally via Nepal and other routes along with their families.

“Since no ex-militant has returned through the identified routes under the policy after fulfillment of the conditions prescribed in it, they are not eligible for any assistance or rehabilitation. Therefore no assistance can be provided for their rehabilitation,” the house was informed.

The new ‘surrender and rehabilitation’ policy had run into controversy following the arrest of Liyaqat Ali Shah of Kupwara by police near Gorakhpur in UP on way to New Delhi. Liyaqat was later released and now NIA is investigating the claims made by Delhi police in the case.

“Our future has been made dark,” Shabana, in picture, says. Pic: Bilal Bahadur
“Our future has been made dark,” Shabana, in picture, says.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Most of these ex-militants families term the government rehabilitation policy as a failure and that is why they have finally decided to exfiltrate illegally.

According to reports the arrested families for exfiltrating included that of Zahoor Ahmad Bhat son of Ghulam Qadir Bhat of Trehgam. Bhat is brother of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, the founder of JKLF who was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 11, 1984.

Bhat’s family members who were arrested included his wife Ameena resident of PaK, and children – Fahad, 10, Nilofar, 9, Abdul Wahab, 6 and Abdullah, 4.

Another family arrested in Keran is of Syed Muneer Hussain Qadri, 45, son of Syed Mohammad Hussain Qadri of Khurhama. His family members include wife Shahida Begum, 40 and children – Tafaras, 14, Fasid, 15 and Syed Najam, 7.

The third family is of Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 47, son of Mohammad Manwar Wani of Mirnag, Kupwara. His family members include wife Mehtab Begum, 47 and children – Fatima, 13, Mariyam, 11, Aisha, 9 and Mohammad Ikhlas, 5.

The fourth family is of Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, of district Budgam. His family members include wife Shahida Begam, and Chidren, Sara Bano, 9, Saiya, 8 and Hamza, 2.

Police also arrested Ajaz Ahmad Khawaja son of Mubarak Khawaja of Maliyal, Kupwara. Sources said that he was helping these families to cross over into PaK.

Sources said that they were arrested in Keran after 23 Grenadiers reported to the police about their presence in the area.

They added that these 23 persons reached Keran in three vehicles and were dropped at the main gate erected by the army. The Army men after checking their identity cards allowed them to go to the village where they were supposed to attend a marriage party.

In the evening when an Army patrol asked the head of the family in whose family marriage ceremony was taking place, about these four families, they were told that they were neither their invitees nor they were present in the marriage party.

Army immediately reported to the Police who arrested them form the four different houses with the help of Army.

Pertinently round about 250 former militants have returned to Jammu and Kashmir from PaK, along with their families, through Nepal and other routes in the last over three years under Government rehabilitation policy. These families are facing lot of hardships as these former militants wives are Pakistani nationals and children too are born in Pakistan.

The family members of the ‘surrendered’ ex-militants are according to them facing lot of hardships in the State since their return from PaK.

The families of former militants which returned to Kashmir under government’s ‘rehabilitation policy’ feel dejected courtesy ‘official apathy’. Apparently, these families now want to go back to the other side of the LoC, from where they had come with lots of dreams and hopes.

Most of the wives of ex-militants who have returned from PaK feel that life in Pak was much better as they had relatives to rely on. But here in this part of Kashmir, most of them blame that their in-laws often taunt them for being the residents of PaK.

These ladies, who have come here after marrying to Kashmiri youth in PaK, also blame the society of considering them as ‘aliens’.

“They (their neighbours) make us feel like intruders. As if being a resident of Pakistani part of Kashmir is a crime.” said Shabana angrily.

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