Rehabilitation or Harassment?

Released or ex-militants have had to continue suffer harassment and indignity long after having endured physical torture during their detention by government forces. After the state government announced a new policy for their “rehabilitation” many of them hoped their ordeal might finally end. Majid Maqbool finds out why they feel the policy has become yet another instrument of either denigrating them instead or forcing them to work for ‘security forces’.

Government’s  rehabilitation policy for the released militants is turning out to be a hoax as profiling of ex-militants in the valley has raised concerns about such ‘rehabilitation’ exercises.Released militants say even after years of giving up arms and having served jail terms, they are being harassed by police agencies in the name of rehabilitation.

Besides regular attendance in police stations and army camps, former militants are now being profiled extensively by the police authorities asking them to furnish all personal details, including expertise in various weapons, and their bank and property details.

The district-wise profiling of released militants comes in the wake of a recent statement by chief minister Omar Abdullah, in which he said that his government would formulate “a rehabilitation policy” for released militants in consultation with the Union Home Ministry.

“My government has raised the issue with the Home Ministry that there is urgent need to devise a rehabilitation policy for the released militants. So, in response to that, they ordered a baseline (survey) to know how educated the militants are and what skill they possess,” he said.

But the ground realities speak otherwise. This “survey” has come to mean harassment of ex-militants, who are estimated to be around 30,000 in number. The former militants say the government is not serious about their rehabilitation. They believe their profiling by the police agencies is a pressure tactic to harass and humiliate them.

“Former militants are now being asked to fill these forms by the police agencies. This is a clear harassment and humiliation aseven after serving long jail terms and having been tortured in jails, they are profiling them again,” says Abdul Qadeer Dar, president of Peoples Rights Movement (PRM), an organization that fights for the political rights of the former militants in the valley.

Qadeer says that the police agencies have issued these forms three times this year, asking former militants to fill all the particulars and send them back to the nearest police stations.

“They are asking for various details in these forms like expertise and use of weapons, and bank and property details,” says Qadeer. “If they are talking of rehabilitation of former militants, why do they need to know about their expertise in weapons?” he asks

Earlier this year, Peoples Rights Movement, which was constituted in 2007 to protect the rights of former militants, filed a writ petition in J&K High court against profiling and harassment of released former militants by the government agencies.

The petition appealed to the court to ask the government agencies to stop harassment of released militants and withdraw  the police orders asking for incriminatory details. The petition said that the former militants are compelled to provide all the unnecessary details by adopting coercion and intimidation tactics which is a clear violation of the law.

The petition further states that all the details about former militants are already available with the police agencies, and there’s no need to ask for more details from them.Following their release and dissociation from militant activities, the petition reads, the released militants have nothing more to add to their already known profile.

“Sometimes they are luring the former militants by saying that the state is likely to provide incentives, which after verification was found to be untrue.”
The petition mentions that asking for personal details is “a clear violation of Article 20 and 14 of the constitution and also against the J&K Police rules.”

The petition says that despite government claims of rehabilitation of former militants, nothing has been done on the ground so far, and released militants continue to be harassed by various government and police agencies. “The former militants are being harassed, humiliated, threatened and even refused No Objection Certificate (NOC) for petty government jobs and denied travel documents,” the petition states, adding that “the former militants are being made as scapegoats and forced to work with police agencies.”

Human rights activist and lawyer Parvaiz Imroz, who filed the writ petition in the high court on behalf of PRM, says that asking for personal information is unnecessary and amounts to their harassment. “By asking details about their expertise in various weapons, the government is in a way sending out a message for them to work for counter-insurgent agencies,” he says. He believes that in the name of their ‘profiling’, the former militants are being pressurized to work for army and police agencies.

The former militants and their families, who number around 2-4 lakh including, are suffering on many fronts. “Their families are suffering as well as they don’t get travel documents and passports issued because of their past,” says Imroz. The released militants find it difficult to find jobs as well. Their family members are also harassed by the government forces. “The former militants have gone through hell and still face harassment at the hands of police and government agencies,” he says.“At many places they’re still asked to come for regular attendances in nearest police stations and army camps.”

Mohammad Ashraf, an ex-militant from Baramulla district, says all the government and police agencies have already kept a detailed record of all the released militants. “They don’t need any new information,but now in the name of rehabilitation, we’re asked to fill these forms by the police,” he says.

Ashraf says that their profiling by the police agencies is a kind of mental torture for their families as well. “If the government is talking of rehabilitation on one hand, why are we being harassed and forced to fill these forms by the police,” he asks. He says if the government is serious about their rehabilitation, then civiladministrative officersshould take up such matters with them, and police should not be involved in their profiling.

Ashraf says all the released militants he knows are living in poor economic condition and are unable to find jobs because of the ‘ex-militant’ tag associated with them. “We are not fit to do labor work as well because many of us were severely tortured in custody before our release,” he says.

Ashraf,an ex-militant of the Al-jihad militant outfit, was first arrested in 1991 in Baramulla by the army.He was sent to Papa-2 detention centre, where he says he was tortured for 9 months. He was released in 1993 after two years.

“After my release I had to go for weekly attendance in the army camp where I was forced to do labor work,” he says. Tortured in custody during his militant years, Ashraf says he can’t stand still for more than 5 minutes, leave alone doing some physical work.

Javid Ahmad, another ex-militant from Baramulla, was first arrested in 1992 in Baramulla by Rajputana Rifles and taken to Kreeri camp. “I was tortured there for 22 days,” he says. Then he was taken to BadamiBagh cantonment and imprisoned there for 28 days. In Badamibagh army camp,Javid recalls being taken to adreaded room. “The room appeared to be a medical room from outside, but it actually was used for torturing inmates,” he says.

After 18 more months of imprisonment in sub-jail Baramulla, Javid was released in 1994.“But in the subsequent years I had to regularly go to the army camps for my attendance,” he says. “Iwas made to clean toilets inside the army camps,” he adds.

For Javid things have not changed much since the 1990s. Even today he has to present himself at the Delina police stationfor regular attendance. “If we don’t go,police calls our home asking other members to come to the police station for attendance,” he says.

Javid says the released militants continue to be harassed on different occasions. “Incase of a VIP movement through the areas where we live, we are arrested two days prior to the movement, especially around 15 August and 26 January,” he says.

The former militants say that despite having dissociated themselves from militant activities, they continue to be harassed by the army and police agencies. They say the government agencies are compelling them to work for counter insurgency operations, failing which they have to face consequences, like implications in false and frivolous cases.

“If there’s any militant activity anywhere in the areas where former militants reside, they are the first people to face the consequences and are held responsible for any militant activity in their locality,” says Abdul Qadeer.


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