Are Kashmiri militants ready to return home from Pakistan?
Hundreds of Muslim militants based in the Pakistani part of Kashmir are ready to give up arms and return to their homes in the Indian part of the Himalayan region following New Delhi’s formal approval of a rehabilitation policy for rebels.
Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the government has received nearly 700 applications from militants who are in the Pakistani part of Kashmir and want to return home.
“Out of the total applications received, 125 have been cleared by authorities for the militants to return to the state,” Abdullah said.
He added that the information will be passed to the families of militants on how they can come back. But the government says militants “must renounce violence and accept the integrity of India.”
There are no figures on how many people from Indian Kashmir are currently on the Pakistani side.
Thousands of people have crossed over to Pakistani Kashmir for arms training since a revolt against India broke out in 1989.
Many of them returned and joined different rebel groups, hundreds were killed on the rugged border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, while the rest are living in different parts on the Pakistani side.
India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had slammed the government for approving what it termed an ”anti-national” policy aimed at the return of Kashmiri militants.
“It’s an anti-national act, and we will oppose it tooth and nail,” BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta said.
Officials say that the process of screening such people would be very strict.
A high-level team of government officials, army, police and representatives of the ministry of home affairs will scrutinise the applications and verify the antecedents of the militants who want to surrender.
According to The Times of India, the first batch of militants is expected to return home by June-end if everything goes well after the double-screening exercise.
By offering amnesty, New Delhi is trying to win the hearts and minds of the alienated people of Kashmir after nearly 22 years of unrest. Nearly 50,000 people including militants, civilians and Indian security force personnel have been killed so far.
There has been no reaction from Islamabad or the government of Pakistan-administered Kashmir to the Indian announcement. The neighbours claim the Kashmir in full but rule in parts and have fought wars over the scenic region.
Will decades of Indian and Pakistan animosity create hurdles for the return of Kashmiri rebels?