India’s ‘amnesty’ to Pakistan-based Kashmiri rebels
The Indian government has for the first time offered amnesty to hundreds of Kashmiris who had crossed over to the Pakistani part of Kashmir and are now willing to surrender and return home.
Thousands of Kashmiris have slipped into Pakistan-administered Kashmir for arms training since an anti-India insurgency broke out twenty years ago.
Hundreds have returned and joined Muslim rebel groups, many died on a rugged military control line while sneaking into the Indian side and many more are still living in different parts of Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has said anyone willing to give up militancy and return is welcome home.
The amnesty for those who want to return home could be a major confidence-building measure in a bid to soothe anger in Kashmir, where recent civilian deaths, blamed on security forces, have fuelled anti-India sentiment.
BBC says there is no guarantee that the government of Pakistan would co-operate in any scheme to repatriate the Kashmiri militants.
But India may take up the amnesty issue with Pakistan at foreign secretary-level talks.
There was no comment from separatists but leading pro-India political parties in Kashmir have backed the initiative to help Kashmiri youth return.
Chidambaram’s statement comes a day after Indian troops, in a rare confession, said one of their soldiers had shot dead an innocent, a killing which triggered massive anti-India protests across Kashmir.
Human Rights Watch says the arrest of the soldier suspected of killing a teenager could be an important step by Indian forces to curtail abuses by security forces in the disputed region.
Amnesty for rebels and the arrest of the soldier could ease a recent spike in tensions in Kashmir, where hundreds of people have been injured in pitched street battles between government forces and rock-pelting crowds protesting “innocent killings.”
Is India, after a series of mistakes, trying to win back Kashmiris and heal scars of violence?