Omar's Rehabilitation Policy May Hit A Roadblock24 November 2010
Srinagar: The rehabilitation policy for the former militants who are in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) may hit a roadblock, with the Congress, the key ally in the coalition government of Jammu and Kashmir, expressing reservations following a scathing attack by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu that the policy was aimed at appeasing the anti-national elements. Even as the policy is understood to have been approved by Union Home Minister, the Congress has started dragging its feet though it was accepted in the State Cabinet in the presence of its Ministers. Rehabilitation of youth The policy envisages rehabilitation of the youth who crossed over to the PoK in 1989 for training in arms and ammunition. A government notification said the policy is intended to facilitate the return of ex-militants who belong to Jammu and Kashmir, and had crossed over to PoK-Pakistan for training in insurgency but had given up insurgent activities due to change of heart and are willing to return to the State. “As per the policy, those who have gone to PoK-Pakistan between 1.1.1989 and 31.12.2009, and their dependents, will be eligible for consideration under the policy,” said the notification issued after approved by the Cabinet on Monday. To return home There are hundreds of Kashmiri youth who are “stranded” in PoK and Pakistan and want to return to their homes after getting fed up with the politics of violence and “ill treatment” by the authorities there. Some of them told this reporter in Muzaffarabad in 2005 that they were desperate to be back home as their families were in a bad shape. The policy will not only help them to return through four designated points – the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, Wagah in Amritsar, Chakan Da Bagh and the Kaman Post, but will also make them eligible for cash incentives. The exact number of youth is not known, but a top official told The Hindu that it must be below 1000. However, before the policy could take off, the Congress may “change its heart” following the BJP'S criticism. “Yes, we have to see whether it is in the interest of the State,” a senior Congress leader said. The matter was not discussed in the Coordination Committee of the coalition government, he asserted. Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma did not make a direct comment, but maintained: “we will see the draft of the policy and then comment”. Some Congress Ministers, informed sources said, stayed away from the Cabinet meeting. The sources told The Hindu that Congress was feeling uneasy after BJP remarks, as it may have an adverse impact on its “vote bank” in Jammu where the right wing parties have been fighting for “rights to Pakistani refugees” for the last several decades. Anti-national decision The BJP has upped its ante over the decision, saying that it was to promote anti-national forces. “This is an anti-national decision and we won't tolerate it. The government is rewarding those people who took up arms to disintegrate the nation. We will not be mute spectators. We have decided to launch an agitation against this move. To start with, we will observe chakka jam for three hours on November 27,” BJP State president Shamsher Singh Manhas said. He added: “It is an irony that 1.75 lakh west Pakistan refugees have not been given citizenship in J&K even after 63 years of Independence. And you are appeasing traitors. With such a policy, you are sending a message that those who take up arms will be rewarded.” However, the ruling National Conference has hailed the decision. Its spokesman and MLC Sheikh Ghulam Rasool said: “It is a landmark decision and the most effective confidence-building measure to provide relief to the families which have been waiting since long for the return of their kith and kin.” He asserted that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had initiated a series of measures to address the political and humanitarian dimensions of the Kashmir problem, which has resulted in reducing the despondency of the people who are seeing a ray of hope after a long spell of frustration and despair. “The coalition government of the State and the Government of India deserve our full support and appreciation for having facilitated the proposal of Omar Abdullah, and thereby exhibited clear manifestation of their coordination efforts in restoring peace and prosperity in the State,” said Mr. Rasool.