Human beings have an abiding proclivity to forget adversity the moment the situation takes a turn for the better while overlooking lessons from the difficult times gone by. Something like this seems to be happening in the trouble torn state of Jammu and Kashmir. For many decades, living in the shadow of the gun and being face to face with death and destruction has been the lot of the unfortunate people of the region. Only recently, desolation has given way to peace and hope for a better future. A special word “normalcy” has been coined to explain the unfolding situation. Normalcy relates to a decline in terrorism related violence which, in turn, is translating into a revisit of democratic norms, peace, prosperity and development.
Unfortunately, the difficult times have been relegated in the minds of the State’s leadership and energy has been diverted towards accumulating political mileage from the improving scenario. There is a tearing hurry to bring about drastic changes without pausing to reflect on the repercussions on those attempting to heal deeply embedded wounds. There are calls to change the political structure, the security paradigm, the geographic alignments and a host of other issues. Contradictory voices adding to the confusion. It seems that those who wish to guide the destiny of the people are completely isolated from the wounds that their constituency, actual or perceived, is trying to come to terms with.
One case in point is the aspect of surrender and rehabilitation. A working group on confidence building measures was instituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It had recommended that a definite policy/package be formulated for the return and rehabilitation of youth of Jammu and Kashmir who crossed over to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) during the peak of terrorism. Acting on this recommendation, in the year 2010, the State government mooted a surrender and rehabilitation policy to provide amnesty for such local militants who had crossed over due to indoctrination, compulsion or other socio-political reasons. These elements were defined as “misguided youth”. The policy obtained formal sanction from the Union Home Ministry in November 2010. A year and a half hence, it has not really taken off. By the look of it, this will be a long drawn out process mainly because Pakistan is not positively inclined to any venture that can open the lid from its anti-India terrorist activities.
Now this policy is bouncing back with negative fallouts. It seems that the “misguided youth” in POK look upon this development as a sign of the weakness and have decided to take law in their own hands. The government had selected four entry points, Poonch-Rawalakote, Uri-Muzaffarabad, Wagah in Punjab and Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, from where the misguided youth, cleared by various intelligence agencies, could enter the Nation. Not one person has entered India through these approved entry points; instead, massive influx has been reported from unauthorised entry points mainly along the Indo-Nepal border and that too without proper documentation. Credible intelligence inputs have pointed towards attempts by terror outfits, particularly Hizbul Mujahideen, to exploit the system to refuel terrorism in the state.
The situation is alarming enough for Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to flag it during a recent internal security meeting chaired by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. “There is a growing concern about the possibility of the recycling of the surrendered and released militants as well as these prospective returnees from POK. This needs attention of the Government,” said the Chief Minister.
On the basis of this apprehension, the Union Home Secretary, R K Singh, has issued directions to depute JK police personnel along the Indo-Nepal border to assist the Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) in identifying the Kashmiri youth crossing over; former militants have also been deployed as “spotters”, to assist in the process. Within days of the direction being put to effect, 40 Kashmiri’s were detained in Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh while trying to enter into India illegally.
Now the issue has entered the political domain; it is being said that most of the 2400 odd Kashmiri’s who are said to be located in POK are married, have families and are past the age of being terrorists. It is also being said that the Police has no complaints against those who have come back and are now settled in their homes. All this is a concerted attempt to give legitimacy to the process of illegal entry from Nepal and other places, as a part of the surrender and rehabilitation policy.
This is a classic case of taking a sensitive decision in a hurry. There is no denying the good intentions behind the initiative, which are also very much desirable. However, the timing was wrong and the repercussions are there for all to see. Pakistan has put a lid on the legitimate process of return and rehabilitation of the misguided youth; terrorist leaders across are heaping untold atrocities on these people and their families to pressurise them into submission; the aspirations of the genuine people stuck across and those of their families in Jammu and Kashmir have been raised without any tangible avenue for progress; an illegal cross border activity has been given a boost; the terrorist organisations are attempting to exploit the situation for their own devious infiltration plans; those who manage to come across are looked upon with suspicion at all times, things cannot get worse than this. It would be expedient for leaders and policy makers to set aside a reasonable for “normalcy” to gain firm roots before ushering changes in Jammu and Kashmir. The dictum of act in haste and repent at leisure should not be allowed to gain credence in the State which has already had its fair share of misery.