Security forces in Kashmir to offer militants amnesty for first time in a bid to encourage surrenders

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police has said that it will offer amnesty and refrain from pressing charges against militants who are willing to give up arms and surrender.

The decision comes right after footballer-turned militant Majid Irshad Khan quit the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and returned back home. Inspector general of police, Kashmir range, Muneer Ahmad Khan, told Firstpost: "If a youth has joined militancy and is not involved in any activity, we will not press any charges against him and he can come back."

 Security forces in Kashmir to offer militants amnesty for first time in a bid to encourage surrenders

Representational image. AP

The amnesty to the local Kashmiri youth is being offered for the first time in the history of militancy in the Valley. In order to ensure that the militants give up arms, the Jammu and Kashmir government, in 2004, had worked out a surrender policy under which it even offered incentives to those willing to rejoin the mainstream.

As per the policy, which will now be changed, the militants were eligible for a monthly payment of Rs 2,000 for three years and a fixed deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh after they are tried for the charges against them. The surrender policy was announced by former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on 31 January, 2004.

Its objectives were to offer facilities to those militants who "undergo a change of heart and eschew the path of violence and who also accept the integrity of India and the Indian Constitution; to encourage them to join the mainstream and lead a normal life and contribute towards prosperity and progress of the state as well as the nation."

Under this policy, militants can surrender with or without weapons but the "surrenderee involved in heinous crimes like murder, rape, abduction will be entitled to benefits only when legal action has been completed, court cases decided and the person has been pronounced innocent." The militants are provided with an immediate grant of Rs 1.5 lakh as fixed deposit for three years, which can be drawn by him only on completion of the "three year period and subject to good behaviour".

There are also incentives for providing weapons of different makes to the government forces, including AK-47 rifles and grenades. These incentives range from Rs 15,000 to 25,000.

Previously, however, the militants arrested were tried under Unlawful Activities Act for being part of banned organisations. Also, in cases of recovery of weapons, they were slapped with the Arms Act and for killings, murder charges were pressed against them.

But the police and army have now unveiled a new strategy that they say will welcome the youth into the mainstream. Unlike under the new policy, those who had surrendered only a few months back were tried in different cases.

Director general of police SP Vaid said that he has also taken up with the government the need to change the existing surrender policy which is in use since 2004. "I have taken up the matter with the government. We have not revised the 2004 policy and I have requested the government that it should be revised. We are awaiting government clearance on this," he said.

According to officials, with police now deciding not to pursue any cases against the surrendered militants, the new policy will also look to provide amnesty for the youth. This is unlike recent cases where militants had surrendered.

In September this year, LeT militant Adil Hussain Dar had surrendered during an encounter with security forces in Barbugh area of Shopian, in which two other militants, Altaf Ahmad Rather and Tariq Ahmad Bhat, were killed. A police official, however, claimed that Adil is in judicial custody and is facing charges for taking part in different militancy operations.

"Adil is in jail and he is facing charges of indulging in militancy and taking part in an encounter," the police official said.

Similarly, on 11 September, Hizbul Mujahideen militant Arif Ahmad Sofi had surrendered when two militants, Dawood Ahmad and Sayar Ahmad, were killed at Khudwani area of Kulgam in southern Kashmir. A police official confirmed that Arif was also in prison "for taking part in militancy."

However, with this new amnesty policy, the police now hopes to encourage a large-scale surrender of militants in Kashmir. The militancy which had largely been under control in the Valley had escalated after the mass agitation in 2016 triggered by the killing of Hizbul militant commander Burhan Muzafar Wani.

Over the last 10 months, more than 90 local youth have joined militancy while around 190 have been killed. The number of militants killed is highest this year in comparison to several previous years.

Updated Date: Nov 21, 2017 17:46:39 IST