NEW DELHI: An Indian military plan to end militancy in the region by resettling young Kashmiri fighters has been described as “meaningless” by both analysts and former fighters.
The rehabiliation program will fail unless the roots of unrest in the region — violence, alienation and betrayal — are addressed by New Delhi, they say.
India’s military commander in the Kashmir Valley, Lt. Gen. B.S. Raju, announced the rehabilitation program on Wednesday, saying advanced plans had been submitted to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Referring to the Kashmiri fighters as “young boys who need to be taken care of,” Raju said the policy “will help and give confidence to those who are opting to surrender.”
India has tried similar rehabilitation programs in the past, but some who took part have told Arab News they now regret their experience.
“They offered us jobs, some money, rehabilitation and training, but in the last 6 years I have received nothing,” former fighter Sanullah Dar, 44, said.
Dar returned to Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan in 2014 when he was offered a place in rehabilitation scheme by the-then Kashmiri government. His Pakistani wife accompanied him.
“Even after 6 years my wife doesn’t have an Indian passport. My children are also denied passports. I was leading a peaceful life in Lahore, earning a living, doing some work. But here we are without hope.”
Dar left Kashmir in 1990 at the height of militant uprising in the valley, settled down in Lahore and married a Pakistani woman. After 24 years he decided to return to his homeland after the rehabilitation policy was announced.
Javed Ahmed, who returned from Karachi in 2007, also regrets his decision to respond to the Kashmir government’s call.
“There is no empathy or sympathy for us. No promise has been honored. My wife and I somehow survive eking out a living, but there are more that 400 families who are struggling to feed themselves,” Ahmed, who now works as bus driver, told Arab News.
“My wife is still treated as a foreigner, she cannot have an Indian passport. Legally, a foreign wife should become a legal citizen of the husband’s country within four or five years, but my wife and several women are living like stateless persons.”
Ahmed’s wife, Saira, said she is unable to return to Pakistan because she has no documents.
“My father is sick, but I cannot visit him because I don’t have a passport.”
Ahmed is worried about the future of his four children.
“My younger children get angry when they see our humiliation, and it is because of this humiliation that many in Kashmir pick up guns,”
“I am worried that they might become rebels when they grow up. Can you stop them?“
A Kashmir expert, retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, told Arab News that India’s rehabilitation policy will be “futile” unless it addresses the source of the problem, which is “alienation, anger, hatred and a sense of betrayal.”
The issue was exacerbated by the decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, he said.
On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of India’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s autonomy. Amid a military lockdown thousands of local political leaders and activists were detained, some of whom remain under arrest.
“These militants are not criminals. They are coming out to express dissent and protest at the way they have been treated by India for the past 30 years,” Kak said.
In the past seven months at least 135 fighters have been killed in the region. The Indian military says that about 200 militants are still active in the Kashmir Valley.
“There is a monetary reward for killing militants, which is an incentive for extrajudicial killings, and also leads to fake encounters in which civilians are killed and branded as militants,” said Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human
“If the government really wants to show change of approach, it must stop financial rewards for killing militants. The rehabilitation policies have been a disaster.”
Zaffar Choudhary, a Srinagar-based political analyst and editor of online news magazine The Dispatch, told Arab News: “Militancy is never a mechanical process where the isolation of a few elements can change the course of a project.
“Militancy is in the mind,” he said. “A few become more visible as militants when they pick guns. So you have to deal not just with the militants but also wider society. It is the society that needs rehabilitation through political outreach.”
Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Lt. Gen. B.S. Raju, who announced the rehabilitation policy, was unavailable for comment.