Saturday 30 March 2013

From frying pan into fire for Kashmir's surrendered militants? (Kashmir Newsletter)

By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, March 30 (IANS) Even as the outcome of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) probe into the arrest of Syed Liaquat Shah is awaited, the plight of militants who  surrendered in Jammu and Kashmir under a 2010 policy has come into sharp focus. For them, it's akin to going from the frying pan into the fire.
The state government has been asserting that Liaquat had come along with his wife and stepdaughter  to surrender before the authorities under the government's 2010 rehabilitation policy, while Delhi Police, who picked him up in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, claim he had come to plan a terror strike in the national capital around Holi.
Liaquat's arrest comes against the background of the lesser known fact that another family which came with his from Pakistani Kashmir via the Nepal route to surrender has reached the Valley.
Muhammad Ashraf belongs to north Kashmir's Bandipora district. He was accompanied by his wife and five children, a highly placed source here confirmed to IANS.
Sources also said that during a de-briefing session, Ashraf had confirmed the genuineness of Liaquat's intentions to surrender as the two families had interacted  before taking the final call on their surrender decision.
The state government announced an ambitious rehabilitation policy in 2010 to encourage  Kashmiri youth living in Pakistani Kashmir to return home and live a normal life after abjuring violence.
Under this policy, over 200 former militants have returned, most of them with their families. Most of the surrendered militants have Pakistani spouses who also chose to come to Kashmir along with their husbands and children.
The state government claims that these former militants have been given monetary incentives and provided security cover, but the "beneficiaries" deny this.
The rehabilitation policy has been severely criticised by the families of  the surrendered militants, with most of them alleging the authorities have done precious little after they decided to respond to the state government's announcement.
Zeba, the wife of one such surrendered militant, belongs to Karachi. She told reporters in Srinagar earlier this week that she wanted to visit her parents in Pakistan but the authorities have done nothing to arrange for her travel documents.
Under the existing laws, Zeba and dozens like her are living illegally in the Valley since they  have come here without any valid travel documents from Pakistan and without India issuing them visas.
Paradoxically, the  future of such families hangs in balance since the rehabilitation policy is silent on the future of foreign spouses of the surrendered militants.
Many surrendered militants have been voicing serious concern about their non-acceptance by society after their return from across the border.
"Our children are  not able to get admission into local schools as we have no residence proof, ration card, state subject certificate or even an identity card. The authorities have  brought us here without even being able to give us an identity card. We have  become aliens in our land," said a surrendered militant who did not wish to be  named.
Some of the surrendered militants say they are living on rent in localities far away  from their ancestral places where their actual identities are not known to avoid social stigma.
Overall, since 1990, 4,081 militants have surrendered in the state up to February, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told the legislative assembly, now in session in  winter capital Jammu. The state government is, however, silent on the steps taken to rehabilitate them.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at
--Indo-Asian News Service

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