Why Has The Rehabilitation Policy Failed?

by Sheikh Umar Ahmad

The Kashmir conflict has over the years evolved into many traumatic contextures involving masses from different religions, ethnic groups and regions of common descent. It has contributed to the bloodshed that is still going on. No method, policy or strategy has paved way for unconditional resolution of this conflict but every time anything new is/was conceived for to alleviate the sufferings of people it potentiates it further and worsens the situation than ever.

A group of Pakistan origin Kashmiri brides held a protest at press colony Srinagar on Saturday, February 2, 2019. KL Image Mehraj Bhat

Apart from various schemes and policies framed to curb this growing trend of militancy in Kashmir, a new out of box policy was framed as “surrender and rehabilitation policy” approved by the then state cabinet in November 2010, after clearance from Government of India. It intended to facilitate the return of former militants who belong to Jammu and Kashmir and had crossed over to PaK and Pakistan for arms training.

The scheme was initially meant for the youth who gave up this idea of picking up arms due to change of heart and who were willing to return to rejoin their families and was applicable to those who went there between January 1, 1989, and December 31, 2009.

The policy envisaged allowing the youth to return and permitted to enter only though four designated points – Poonch, Rawalakote, Uri-Muzaffarabad, Wagah (Punjab) and Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi. Initially thought of as a goodwill gesture for the people who are desperate to come back to their places of birth came back with their families through any of these designated routes, finding a ray of hope amid the ever-escalating tensions between the two neighbouring nations, the policy ended in a flop show.

The policy does provide the returnees with a route to come back but never gave them the rights and privileges ensued in the policy. The basic identity documents were not provided to any of their family members like election card, Aadhar card, ration card and the likes even after repeated pleas to state government that only alleviated their sufferings and further added to their worrisome while thinking of their future in Kashmir in absence of these basic amenities to them.

The continuous protest by more than some 350 wives of ex-militants against the state administration and their oppressive tactics who failed miserably to implement the rehab policy in the best interest to all of them is a testimony to the fact that this policy has escalated the tensions further rather than easing it.

The state government in its 2003 budget session of state legislature informed that during the past three years, some 241 former militants have returned illegally via Nepal route and other routes along with their families. Since no ex-militant has returned through the identified routes under the policy after fulfilment of the conditions prescribed in it, so they are not eligible for any assistance or rehabilitation, the government said.

In absence of travel documents to any of them and in wake of non-clearance of emigration by the concerned agencies, how come they would have come back through the designated routes. They were made to come back illegally as the policy failed to handle their return.

Seemingly, it was an attempt of deceit and informal trap-up policy to let them come back, get the required information from them, prepare a framework document of future plans and then let them suffer on their own. This way they broke their trust.

There are cases in which ex-militants after their return, surrendered in front of designated authorities thinking of a suitable rehabilitation plan for them, rejoined the militancy groups only after finding this policy a real failure on the ground. Even most of the ex-militants families term the government rehabilitation policy as a failure and that is why they have finally decided to exfiltrate illegally.

Pertinently round around 350 former militants have returned to J&K from PaK, along with their families, though Nepal and other routes since the policy was announced. But as per government, they are not entitled to the benefits as they have come through undesignated routes. These families are facing a lot of hardships as these women are Pakistani nationals and their children too are born in Pakistan and are denied the basic ID in this part even after repeated pleas. These families feel dejected courtesy to official apathy. Apparently, some of these families want to go back to the other side of LoC from where they had come with lots of dreams and hopes.

Sheikh Umar Ahmad

This thin line that separates these two families and denies them their basic identities devalues the essence of that great quotation that good fences make good neighbours. This line has done the greatest of damage to humanity by delinking it from blood and birth.

It is high time for the state and central establishments to rethink their policies of deceit and resolve the inaccuracies in the best interest of the people. It is also required for both the parties at the extreme ends to reduce this trust deficit among the masses involved by resolving the core issues pertaining to both the regions of this line as a goodwill gesture.

(Sheikh Umar Ahmad is a freelance writer and currently a PhD research scholar (DST inspire fellow) at CSIR IIIM Jammu. Ideas expressed are personal.)        


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