At Home in Exile | Ex-militants regret returning to Valley under 2010 rehabilitation policy

  • ABID BASHIR
  • Publish Date: May 20 2019 4:39AM
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  • Updated Date: May 20 2019 4:55AM
At Home in Exile | Ex-militants regret returning to Valley under 2010 rehabilitation policyRepresentational Pic

Hundreds of young men who returned home from Pakistan-administered Kashmir following the government’s 2010 surrender and rehabilitation policy regret their decision, saying the promises made to them were a curse.

Omar Abdullah who as chief minister announced the policy had described the rehabilitation scheme as a major confidence building measure.

But nearly a decade later, around 500 young men who returned are drowned in despair.

“The policy was a mere hoax as not even a single promise mentioned in it was fulfilled,” said a returnee. These men had crossed over the LoC during early 1990s for arms training in PaK but never crossed back to fight.

Instead, they started building new lives on the other side of the dividing line, married women from PaK and Pakistan and raised families. However, in the wake of the government’s surrender policy that promised them rehabilitation at their native place, most of the former militants brought back with them their wives – some of whom were Pakistani citizens and others residents of PaK – and children.

They had hoped to start their lives afresh, but years later the returnees rue their decision after finding themselves embroiled in police cases filed against them.

A few of them are fighting police cases against them despite having returned via routes designated by the government.

Farooq Ahmed and his wife arrived on a flight from Islamabad to Delhi in 2013. Ahmed had crossed into PaK in 1998 and after spending some time there he set up a furniture business in Muzaffarabad.

“I married Naseema in 2004. After a spine injury that I suffered in earthquake in 2005 left me crippled I decided to spend the rest of my life at my native village in Tangdhar of Kupwara,” Ahmed said.

“But the police booked me for crossing into PaK for arms training. The court spared me from personal appearance because of my disability, but has asked Naseema to represent me.”

Ahmed says his life has become a “living hell”

“What I got was harassment, no skill training as promised by the NC-led government,” he said.

Life turned out to be more difficult for the wives and children of these returnees.

Faiza comes from Mansehra area in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. She married Sheeraz Ahmed of Durpure of Shopian in 2005.

On their return, Faiza and her husband were arrested in Jammu and jailed for six months on charges of plotting a militant strike.

“We were coming to Kashmir with our three children from Nepal when the police arrested us at Jammu railway station,” Fazia said. “Since then we have been regularly travelling to Jammu for hearings.”

Sheeraz crossed into PaK in the late 1990s and started driving a taxi in Muzaffarabad before marrying.

They have four children. Faiza has adapted well to the village life and works in the fields and also manages her home well.

“The regular trips to Jammu, however, have left me exhausted.  We borrow money to pay the fees of our children. Where shall we get money for the lawyer to fight our case?” she says.

The returnees and their families say the cases police slapped on them were fabricated.

“Why would a man who is returning home after more than two decades carry arms with him,” asked Shahnaz, who came to Kashmir with her husband, Muhammad Yousuf Bhat of Turkwanjan village in Shopian.

Yousuf had crossed into PaK in 1990 and returned after his father insisted. He wound up his profitable vegetable business in Muzaffarabad, got the tickets and visa for Nepal and crossed into India only to end up in jail along with Shahnaz.

The family now lives in a single room in his father’s house.

Some of these returnees have been considering going back to PaK.

Sumeera, who came to Alamgunj in 2012 with her husband, Abdul Ahad Rather, lost him to a heart attack a few weeks ago. Her in-laws have been trying to convince her to return to PaK to her parents if the government allows.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, senior National Conference leader and the former minister of state for home, Nasir Aslam Wani said that the surrender and rehabilitation policy was “a great success initially.”

“We brought 600 youth back along with their wives and children who were born in PaK. But the BJP-led regime at the centre with active support of PDP in J&K left no stone unturned to sabotage the policy by portraying all those who returned as militants and a threat to nation,” Wani said.

“We had even started addressing the issues of children of the youth who had returned, like ensuring their admissions (in schools). But for those who had studied till class 5 or Class 8 at PaK schools became an issue as here school authorities didn’t entertain their certificates.”