A surrender and rehabilitation policy that works could have helped bring the J&K story full circle.
Earlier this week, Saira Javaid, the wife of a surrendered militant who had returned to Jammu and Kashmir under the rehabilitation policy, tried to set herself on fire, frustrated by the state’s “broken promises”. Javaid’s case is not the first of its kind, either. The J&K government’s surrender and rehabilitation policy, sanctioned by the Centre in 2010, is slowly turning into a story of displacement and bitterness. It poses tough questions that both the state and Central governments must answer on their commitment to reconciliation in the Valley.
Under the policy, militants who had crossed over into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir during the height of the insurgency, but did not have any serious police cases pending against them in J&K, could return with their families. It aimed to integrate such families into the mainstream, help them find jobs and provide them with the necessary skills and training. But with the details of implementation left vague, the policy has floundered hopelessly on the ground. First, entry into J&K is fraught with danger, given the appalling lack of coordination among state agencies. Last year, Syed Liyaqat Shah was arrested by Delhi Police on charges of involvement in terror activities, even though the J&K government claimed he was returning under the rehabilitation policy. By 2013, about 265 former militants had made the perilous journey back with their families while more than a thousand were waiting for permission to return. But the ordeal doesn’t end there. Back home, such individuals find themselves without police clearance for jobs or ration cards to access the basic necessities, with no documents of citizenship and no way to get their children admitted into school.
Socially and economically isolated, some families have started making the journey back into PoK, while others lack the documents to do so. Disheartened, many former militants across the LoC may never try to return. The surrender and rehabilitation scheme could have been an important step in reaching out to a generation of young men who were swept up in the insurgency, in bringing the J&K story full circle. The government must chalk out a more thoughtful, well-planned policy.