Early this year, New Delhi offered an amnesty to hundreds of Kashmiri former militants who had crossed over to Pakistani-administered Kashmir but were willing to surrender. But many who came home are disappointed.
Former Kashmiri militant Mohammed Ashraf with his wife and children
For the past seven months, 37-year-old Mohammed Ashraf has made it a point to visit the neighborhood mosque every morning for prayers. He prays ardently that the state authorities will give him a job so that he can take care of his three little children and wife.
Ashraf is a former militant who went to Pakistan in 1990. Like hundreds who have returned to Indian-administered Kashmir in recent months, he was hoping to receive a financial rehabilitation package and enter a government-sponsored vocational training program.
"After staying in Pakistan all these years, I faced many difficulties," he explains. "No one knew us and I did not like it. I wanted to come back home and I did so hoping the government would back the move and help. But that has not happened. The struggle is bigger here and there is tension. It looks as if I have stepped out of one problematic area right into another even bigger one."
He has to appear before a local judge and visit the police station at regular intervals to confirm his presence.
Confidence-building measure to soothe anger
The amnesty scheme was meant to be a major confidence-building measure in a bid to soothe anger in Indian-administered Kashmir, where civilian deaths, blamed on security forces, have long fuelled anti-Indian sentiment, and it was announced with much fanfare.
Some 2,000 men have crossed the border into Pakistan-administered Kashmir since 1990
The security agencies worked out a five-level verification process for the surrender-and-rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. A blueprint was prepared on how to screen those returning, bring them home, debrief them, rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the mainstream.
It was also decided that cases filed for illegal border-crossing and crimes committed in the state would continue but that the government would take a lenient view, taking good behavior into consideration.
If the scheme was implemented properly it would benefit over 2,000 people who have crossed the border since the early 1990s.
" Nobody cares and nobody is listening"
Abdul Rashid Chaupan, another former militant, came back early this year with his wife, whom he married in Muzaffarbad. However he too is disappointed: "I did not like it there and decided to come back to my homeland. It was my birthplace after all. I heard about the government's ambitious plans of providing shelter and compensation for those coming back. However, I have been sitting at home all these months and there is no word from anyone. Things are bad at home and for the children. Nobody is bothered."
Mohammed Ashraf spent 20 years in Pakistani-administered Kashmir before coming home
Ashraf says all the returnees are in the same situation: "Till date, over 100 have returned but there is no relief for us. Everyone is tense. Since our return we have told everyone that nothing has been done for us. All of us heard Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's promises. But now nobody cares and nobody is listening."
The former militants say that if nothing happens soon there will be little hope for those waiting to come back. Maybe they will choose not to re-cross the border.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas