“We have almost finalised the policy…there are still some issues to be resolved, such as the cross-over points from where the Kashmiri youth who were lured by Pakistani terror outfits but now wish to come back to lead peaceful lives here should be allowed in…the policy can be a major confidence building measure as Indo-Pakistan dialogue gets underway,” said a senior J&K government functionary.
Some ministers in the state cabinet and even officials in the security establishment at the Centre feel that the cross-over point should be neutral and not in J&K.
One of the options being discussed is Wagah in Punjab. The J&K government, however, is also open to having multiple cross-over points across the LoC/IB, including through the Valley.
“We are pushing through the rehabilitation policy after sorting out such issues and will put it up for the state cabinet approval very soon. Once okayed by the J&K cabinet, the policy will be forwarded to the Centre for approval…the final package will be announced by the Union Cabinet,” said a senior J&K government official.
Though the J&K government has not assessed the numbers of militants who may want to avail of the rehabilitation policy, the position as of now is that many local youth are clandestinely returning to the state after infiltrating through legal routes such as Nepal and Bangladesh. “We are currently unable to track their movements or monitor if they are still in touch with their bosses in Pakistan,” he pointed out.
Once the rehabilitation policy is in place, not only will Kashmiri militants wanting to return be put through proper verification —which will include their identification by their families here — but they will be under the supervision and watch of intelligence agencies and police much after they have crossed over. This will cut the risk of the “reformed” militant renewing his links with Pakistan-based terror outfits. Also, the government will be actively involved in debriefing them and thereafter rehabilitating them by providing them vocational skills and other help for employment or entrepreneurship.
The need for a rehabilitation policy for wayward Kashmiri youth wanting to sever links with militancy was felt only earlier this week when a militant couple approached the authorities in Poonch for surrender and sought rehabilitation. “They had to be told there was no policy in place to deal with disillusioned local militants wanting to come back home without the gun,” said a senior government functionary.
This has made the J&K government even more determined to expedite the proposed rehabilitation policy for local Kashmiri youth who were lured by Pakistani terrorist outfits but now want to return to India.
Incidentally, the J&K government is aware that the policy may not go down well with Pakistan, as it would expose its role as the sponsor of terror in the Valley. “We are anticipating that Pakistan will do everything to ensure that local militants are not allowed to return to Kashmir…We are not expecting huge volumes of local Kashmiri militants to come back, but even if only a few hundred return, our rehabilitation policy will be justified,” said the senior government functionary.
Independent security experts, however, list the risks fraught in accepting Pakistan-trained Kashmiri youth back into the Valley. Lack of proper verification of their bona fides may encourage actual militants to project themselves as disillusioned Kashmiri youth. They may then avail of the policy to get embedded in the mainstream and secretly run sleeper cells here.
Incidentally, many sleeper cells of terror outfits like LeT are known to lie low for years together, during which they take up normal jobs or employment to avoid any suspicion. They get activated by Pak-based bosses often days or weeks before a planned strike.