No takers for Kashmiri militants' rehabilitation policy?
Jammu: The much-hyped rehabilitation policy for Kashmiri militants may turn out to be a big disappointment for Jammu and Kashmir. Not a single application has been received till now, officials said, adding that cumbersome paperwork and time-consuming procedures may kill it altogether.
Under the policy, adopted on Monday, militants wishing to return home from Pakistan or Pakistan-administered Kashmir will be granted amnesty and will receive financial assistance for their families' rehabilitation.
However, neither the state government nor the union home ministry has received a single application till now, a senior official told a news agency.
The policy is being projected as a goodwill gesture by the Omar Abdullah government. But the goodwill is in danger of being buried under bureaucratic formalities.
Explaining the procedure, the official said the militants are required to approach the Indian High Commission in Islamabad or write to their families in Jammu and Kashmir for getting their cases listed.
"Each claim of innocence would be verified by security agencies before being cleared by the union home ministry," he said, adding the procedure was extremely difficult, if not impossible.
According to sources, even if a case is genuine, it will take several years before a militant is rehabilitated.
"It's a chimera, let me put it honestly," another official told a news agency on condition of anonymity. "The policy is bound to fail unless Pakistan cooperates, and there are no signs of that."
Pakistan's tepid response is not hard to understand. If applications are indeed sent to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, that itself is clear proof that Pakistan shelters Kashmiri terrorists.
"That would be a body blow to Pakistan's diplomatic stand that it had nothing to do with terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir," the official said.
The state government has neither the means nor the diplomatic muscle to reach out to militants across the border.
"We are dependent on the goodwill of Delhi and Islamabad, which as of now is non-existent," a state minister told the news agency.
All the major political parties barring the ruling National Conference have either kept quiet or termed the policy anti-national.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindu rightwing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have demanded immediate withdrawal of the policy.
"It's an anti-national act, and we will oppose it tooth and nail," said BJP legislature party leader Chaman Lal Gupta.
VHP state unit president Rama Kant Dubey said the policy was an "insult to the people who have been fighting terrorism."
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chairman Bhim Singh ridiculed the policy, saying it was aimed at "pleasing terrorists and their bosses". The state government was acting as a "servant of terrorists", he said at a press conference Wednesday. It may even be challenged by Jammu lawyers in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
According to the Jammu Bar Association, the policy has no legal sanctity. "A detailed study is being done and accordingly we plan to move court," a senior leader of the association told the agency.
Kashmiri separatists, who were expected to welcome the policy as it was one of their demands, have chosen to remain quiet on the matter.
Even the Congress, the ruling alliance partner, does not seem to share the state government's enthusiasm for the policy.
"We are waiting for the centre to react," a senior Congress minister told the agency, couching the state unit's anxiety of the policy's fallout in Jammu in political banalities.
However, the dismal reception from all quarters has not punctured the National Conference's hopes.
"The policy is a new hope for the people whose kith and kin were across the LoC (line of control)," National Conference spokesperson Sheikh Ghulam Rasool said.
"This would provide a chance to Kashmiri youth to return and lead a normal life," he said.
Also officials hasten to clarify that, contrary to widespread impression, there is no general amnesty clause in the rehabilitation policy.
"No general amnesty is envisaged under this policy," a senior officer said. "It clearly states that the returnees would be duly prosecuted in cases registered against them which are of a serious nature," he said.
The militants will be given training in suitable trades or skills at industrial training institutes or other institutions "to enable their re-integration into society".
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has defended the policy, saying "it would benefit the nation" and "in no way poses any danger to the country".