Farooq Ahmad Sheikh was one among the thousands of Kashmiri youths who had secretively travelled to Pakistan in the early 90s for arms training. Disillusioned by the movement, instead of coming back, they got married and settled in Pakistan.
In 2010, Jammu and Kashmir government launched a rehabilitation policy for former Kashmiri militants, who had crossed over to Pakistan but did not return, and had shunned violence. The policy document designated four points of return, these include Wagah, Atari, Chakan Da Bagh, and the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The document said only those militants, who have crossed over to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan, between 1 January, 1989 and 31 December, 2009, and their dependents are eligible for consideration under the policy.
That was enough to lure hundreds of people like Sheikh back home. One day in 2011, he told his wife and three children, that he was returning to the Kashmir Valley and selling everything, including his business, to be among his “own people.”
“I always missed home and wanted to come back, despite raising a family and having a business there,” Sheikh told Firstpost over phone.
On Wednesday, the state government in the Legislative Assembly, said that no youth has been able to return through the four designated points under the rehabilitation policy launched in 2010 for the former militants to return to a normal life in Kashmir Valley. In a written reply, the government said that only 377 ex-militants along with 864 family members have returned from Pakistan via Nepal and Bangladesh since 2010. It further said that since none of these youths returned via the approved routes, they are not entitled to any benefits available under the policy.
The returnees or the ex-militants usually avoid these designated points of return to evade the Pakistani security agencies, who keep a close watch on them, and also to avoid getting arrested by the Indian security forces.
The documents said that no youth has been able to return via appropriate routes due to “inexplicable reasons and difficulties,” and that there are still 4,088 missing persons in the government records, who are believed to be in Pakistan.
All the ex-militants till now have returned via Nepal, where they destroy their Pakistani passports, and then cross the porous border between Nepal and India and finally reach Kashmir. After their return, they try getting regular papers so that they can get work and resume normal life. However, most people who have returned so far have failed to do so.
“The biggest chink in the policy is that Nepal is still not exactly a sanctioned route. It is the route we are using because the ones that the policy originally envisaged required some sort of complicity on the part of the Pakistan authorities, which is clearly not going to happen,” Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who launched the policy in 2010 had said in an interview in 2013.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti too has demanded Nepal to be recognised as an official point but there has hardly been any response from New Delhi.
To address the political realities of Kashmir, the Government of India during the UPA regime held three round table conferences from February 2006 to April 2007. It was during the second round table conference in 2006, led by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, brought up the issue of those Kashmiri militants, who had crossed the LoC but had later shunned the path of violence. Finally in 2010, a rehabilitation policy was announced by Omar Abdullah, which was then endorsed by the central government.
Majority of these former militants who have returned had thought that they could have a normal life in the valley, but that's not the case.
“We didn't come back on our own, we were called here. We were promised a dignified life. But till this day, nothing has been done for us.” Fameed Khan, a resident of Rawalpindi married to a former Kashmiri militant from Shopian, told Firstpost. They had returned in 2012.
“Our children have been denied school admission and husband a dignified source of income. Our travel documents have been put on hold. We are not allowed to meet our parents," Fameed added.
“The future of our children is ruined because of the bureaucratic tussle and New Delhi’s inaction. This has also stopped many from returning,” Sheikh, who returned in 2013, said.
“At least, we were happy working there. We sold everything there and here a dark future awaited us,” he added.
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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 21:46:53 IST