Declared a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed by the NIA last week, Syed Munir-ul-Hassan Qadiri had walked the tentative path to peace and a better life when he opted out of terrorism and returned to Kashmir from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir via Nepal with his family seven years ago. Qadiri, now under arrest and alleged to be involved in a 2016 militant attack on an Army camp in Nagrota, was among the 450 former militants who came back to Kashmir through the Nepal route as part of the former Omar Abdullah government’s surrender policy, officials here said.
But the promise of a better life and rehabilitation remained unfulfilled with the continuous struggle to make ends meet, especially after the PDP-BJP government took over in 2015.
Qadiri, who headed the ‘Nepal Returnee Forum’, the organisation formed by the former militants who returned to the Valley, had been running from the proverbial pillar to post looking for help for their rehabilitation after the formation of the new government under the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed as chief minister.
An active member of the People’s League who had crossed over to PoK in the early 1990s, Qadiri returned with his wife and three children in 2011. He was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police earlier this month after his name cropped up during an investigation of two youths held in downtown Srinagar.
During his questioning, Qadiri, who is now 45, is alleged to have spoken about his involvement in the 2016 terror attack on an army camp in Nagrota in Jammu in which seven army men, including two officers, were killed. After this, the National Investigation Agency was given his custody on May 26. Officials have helped join the dots from 2011, when Qadiri returned under the Omar Abdullah government’s flagship programme, to now.
Qadiri was given a soft loan from Jammu and Kashmir Bank to start life afresh. He used the money to begin a small business of readymade garments but the massive floods of 2014 washed it all away.
“I will be left with no option but to return to militancy to run my household,” a tearful Qadiri had told PTI in an interview in October 2015 as highlighted the plight of those who had returned from Nepal. The words proved prophetic.
According to an official, Qadiri started working with the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group from September 2016 and facilitated the transportation of three terrorists to the army camp in Nagrota in Jammu region in November that year. “Tall promises were made to us but we don’t even not have proper clothes to wear. We have been left to beg in order to make our ends meet,” Qadiri had said, pointing to the patches on his clothes.
After 2014, Qadiri, who belonged to Lolab in north Kashmir, was thrown out of his parental home and was forced to live in a rented home on the outskirts of Srinagar. His son, a Class 12 student, was working as a daily wager and his children were finding it impossible to get admission in schools because every institution asked for a transfer certificate.
“Now do you expect me to travel back to Muzaffarabad (in PoK) and get the certificate. Is this the surrender policy?” he had asked. There were obstacles at every corner, Qadiri had said. Their names, he added, were registered in revenue records but the state government was not issuing ration cards.
Central security agencies have long said that there must be a solution for those who returned from Nepal. If not, they would be ready fodder for militant groups in the Valley. The Mehbooba Mufti government, an official recounted, had taken up the matter with the Centre but found no takers. The surrender policy of 2010 came to an abrupt end and no one was allowed to cross over from Nepal. Officials said they have been trying to convince the Centre to formulate a policy for those who had returned from Nepal but to no avail.
“After all, this route was started by the previous state government with the concurrence of the Centre,” said an official.
According to state government records, 4,587 youth crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for arms training in the early 1990s. Of these, 489 youth, including 15 during the present PDP-BJP tenure till 2016, returned through the Nepal border. However, the policy was discontinued as the Centre felt that it could be misused by militants to sneak into the hinterland of the country, an official said.