2500 youths from J&K still stranded in PoK28 March 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Even as the Government was in the process of preparing a Rehabilitation Policy for the Kashmiri youths held up in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Intelligence agencies of security forces and police believed that number of such youths was precisely 2500. 'There is no accurate official data as families of most of the youths, who had crossed over to PoK for arms training during past several years of militancy, have not lodged their missing reports. We have through our own sources of information managed to identify most of the youths who were stationed in PoK', official sources told the Excelsior. 'To be very precise, the number of such youths could be around 2500. The number, however, varied with different agencies with some putting it at 2000 and others at 2500 or 3000. We are taking it at 2500', they said, adding there was no basis in the claim of some human rights organisations which described the number around 10,000 or so. According to sources, it was not possible to conduct a survey of the missing youths across the State as majority of the families wouldn’t be ready to share details of their kin even though they had been receiving telephonic calls from them from PoK. The State Home Department has been assigned the task of preparing the Rehabilitation Policy in consultations with the Union Home Ministry officials. It could take some more time to give a final shape to the policy in view of legal hurdles that could crop up. The security agencies believed that majority of 2500 youths had undergone training in terror camps at PoK and Pakistan after they crossed over to other side of the Line of Control. However, most of them have now dispersed from the camps. While a number of them were still believed to be in control of Pakistan Army, ISI and the militant outfits, many others have started working in shops and houses of the people to earn their livelihood. A number of them were also reported to have married the local girls and settled with them. According to sources, it was this section of the youths, who want to come back to the Valley or other parts of the State, where they had been living before crossing over to PoK. 'Whether Pakistan Army and ISI or militant commanders will allow them a smooth sailing to this side remained a million dollar question', sources said, adding the policy framers were also working on this aspect. A possible agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan could facilitate smooth return of the youths intending to return to their houses. In addition to this, there are a number of related issues on which the Committee had to work very carefully to ensure that there were no lacunaes in the Rehabilitation Policy once it was announced by the Government. The wife and children of the militant, when crossed over, would be treated as Pakistani citizens unless they are granted Indian citizenship, sources said, adding few militants have returned to the State in recent times taking air, road or other routes along with their wife and children. Even before the Rehabilitation Policy was mooted by the State Government and idea accepted by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, families of some youths, held up across PoK, had received letters from across the LoC with stranded ultras expressing their desire to return. A number of such letters have been received in recent past in Doda and Kishtwar districts.