Surrendered militants an unwanted lot in Kashmir

Surrendered militants an unwanted lot in Kashmir

In 2004, the state government announced a policy asking militants to give up their life on the run and rejoin their families. The add-ons were Rs.150,000 in fixed deposit for three years, a monthly stipend of Rs.2,000 and preference in jobs.

At least 415 militants bit the bait and came out of hiding. But instances of complete rehabilitation are hard to find.

Shabir Ahmad of Mahore in Reasi district was one of those who laid down arms in September 2004. "We were told that we would be rehabilitated. We would be given money and dignity. We got neither," Shabir told reporters.

"On one hand, the government has ditched us and, on the other, the militants are after our life. We are traitors for them," Shabir said in Reasi, 80 km north of Jammu.

There are similar stories from others who gave up violence. Rashid, who gave only his first name, belongs to Dessa, an area that suffered hugely due to militancy.
"Life is a double misery for us," he said.

The government and its departments, however, pass the buck. Police say after the militants surrender, their files are sent to the state home department. "The money is with the home department; we are only the executing agency," said a police officer. The home department refused to answer calls.

Hopes of a peaceful life after years on the run also have not happened as society eyes them with suspicion. The tag of a surrendered militant is a disgrace for their families.

More than 40,000 people have died during the insurgency that started in 1989. Thousands of youth, mainly the unemployed, joined the ranks of separatists to fight for the cause.

Police acknowledge that the militants' response to the surrender scheme has been "disappointing".

"Now militants are not coming forth to surrender because there has been a disconnect between the promise and implementation," said a senior police officer, a 20-year counter-insurgency veteran in the state.

Adding to the concerns of the surrendered men is the constant fear of reprisal from militant groups. In 2004, Mariam Begum of Doda had her nose and ears cut off by militants a few months after her brother Mohammad Latif surrendered.

Surrendered militants are offered amnesty from small criminal cases, but hardcore ones  and those involved in major terror attacks do not qualify for the scheme.