Jobs, reformative measures, and a monthly stipend of Rs 6,000. These are the key points of a new “reintegration policy” draft that is under the consideration of the J&K government headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik to encourage militants hailing from the state to give up arms.
Speaking to The Indian Express, K Vijay Kumar, advisor to the state government, said the policy draft “is presently at the pre-SAC stage”. “It is subject to clearance by the State Home Department and the Chief Secretary,” he said.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) is the body governing J&K, which is under President’s rule, and is led by the Governor and includes his four advisors and Chief Secretary B V R Subramanyam.
According to the draft, the new initiative addresses the need for rehabilitation at a policy level through a two-pronged approach: reformative measures and opportunities of livelihood. There is also provision for a monthly stipend of Rs 6,000 for a militant who surrenders with a view to “encourage him to join the mainstream”. The initiative, however, will not cover militants found to have been involved in “heinous crimes”.
The latest proposal comes weeks after Lt Gen K J S Dhillon, GOC 15 Corps, spelt out the approach in dealing with militants. “Anyone who picks up the gun, will be eliminated. Unless he surrenders. There is a very good surrender policy being initiated by the government so that they can join the mainstream,” he had said on February 19, five days after the Pulwama terror attack.
Speaking to The Indian Express, former J&K DGP K Rajendra said it is essential for the government to demonstrate its will to reach out to alienated youth.
“The successful implementation of a surrender policy is of utmost importance in J&K as there are a large number of surrendered or released militants (around 25,000). The successful rehabilitation of one hardcore surrendered or released militant will motivate others to follow suit,” he said.
The proposed policy is essentially a revised version of earlier initiatives but with a renewed focus on socio-economic re-integration.
In 2010, the focus was on facilitating the return of ex-militants from J&K who had crossed over between January 1989 and December 2009 for training but later gave up insurgent activities “due to a change of heart and are willing, to return to the state”.
In 2004, a fresh “rehabilitation policy” was implemented by the then PDP government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. It sought to provide “facility to those terrorists who undergo a change of heart and eschew the path of violence and who also accept the integrity of India and Indian Constitution to encourage them to join the mainstream and lead a normal life”.
This policy had made provisions to provide vocational training for militants who surrender if they wished to pursue a trade, and a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 for the first three years. One of the key decisions in the 2004 policy was the establishment of counselling centres “where all the returnees alongwith their wives and children would be lodged for a period of three months or for such longer time as would be necessary”.
However, senior police officers acknowledged that these counselling centres never came up and no one returning to the mainstream was committed to counselling. But they said the policy was successful in motivating militants to return.
“The idea of developing this policy in our time (in government) was to initiate reconciliation and institutional-level integration of people who left or joined armed groups. Those who intend to return saw surrender as an insulting process and there was a sense of defeat attributed to the word ‘surrender’ or even ‘rehabilitation’,” PDP’s youth president Waheed Para said.
Former DGP Rajendra, however, cautioned that “we should not expect miracles overnight”. “It takes quite a lot of effort on the part of everyone to implement it successfully, especially the civil society and political establishment have a major role in motivating and bringing them back into the mainstream,” he said.