October 2007 News

After Family Nod, Kashmir Militants Surrender

30 October 2007

Srinagar: With the tide turning against the separatists, police in Jammu and Kashmir are requesting parents to persuade their militant sons hiding in the hills of Doda to surrender - and the efforts are paying off. It's a new but simple strategy, and few militants hiding in the forests and hills are able to reject their parents' emotional appeal to give up a life of uncertainty and violent death. 'The psychological treatment has worked,' said Senior Superintendent of Police Manohar Singh. 'More than 30 militants of various outfits have surrendered. More are likely to lay down arms in the near future.' Doda's terrain is tough - high mountains, dense forests and impenetrable rocky caves near the Indian border with Pakistan. All these provide a perfect setting to militants to strike and hide for long periods. Despite a heavy presence of the army and paramilitary forces, militancy continues in Doda, a region connected to south Kashmir and the Ladakh region as well as Himachal Pradesh. Said a police officer: 'Militancy in Doda affects the Kashmir Valley, the Zanskar area of Kargil district, the Jammu region and Himachal Pradesh. The natural hideouts are a major challenge for us. So a strategy had to be worked to get them without involving much force.' And after a lot of debate, the police realised that persuasion was the best answer to their problems. Manohar Singh explained the police strategy. 'Since the militants were in touch with their families, we thought of approaching the families and the village elders. We convinced them that no harm would come to their sons if they surrender. 'But if they don't, they would be killed as and when there is a gun battle with them,' the officer said. The message had its desired effect. One by one, parents and elders began to communicate with their wayward sons. It was not an easy task. But after a while, some guerrillas, including those trained in Pakistan, began to see reason. And thus the surrenders began, Singh said. Mohammad Ayub, a militant with the Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen who surrendered about a month ago, did so at the behest of his father, Ghulam Mohammad. He is now reunited with his family. Ayub said that he has rediscovered the virtues of family life. 'I am happy now. I don't have to keep running from security forces all the time,' he said. The young man is now waiting for the government to get him a fixed deposit of Rs.150,000 and loan to set up a self-employment venture - his entitlements as a militant who has surrendered. As the policy appears to be working, the police are getting feelers from more militants willing to give up violence. Said Majid Wani, the Doda legislator: 'We want militants to rejoin the mainstream so that violence ends in this district and people live happily. I am going to ask the government to expedite the rehabilitation of youths who have shunned militancy. This is very important to encourage the forces of peace.'


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