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Surrenders and Rehabilitation
Absence of political backing to scheme and history of Ikhwan culture generate dread, not hope
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Top security officials appeal to the Kashmiri youth who have joined militancy to shun the path of violence with the verbal assurance that surrender will ensure a safe passage and full support for rehabilitation rings more alarm bells than sound welcoming. The skepticism arises due to several reasons. The policy has been announced through media by military heads and not by political leadership of the country even as this announcement coincided with the visit of union home minister Rajnath Singh. For the announcement to sound convincing, it should neither have been left to the military wings to make it nor done without assuring an adequate framework of this policy. In clear absence of such a framework or announcement, it is simply reduced to a military strategy. The credibility of such a proposed strategy remains questionable also in view of a history of documented cases where some odd history of stone pelting by teenaged youth is propped up years later to constantly harass, forcing many of them to pick up the gun. The remarks comes close on the heels of security forces effecting surrenders of an alleged militant and an Over Ground Worker during a recent encounter in South Kashmir's Kulgam. While the announcement made on Monday signals a shift in the policy from killing to catching live, arresting and surrender, it may not necessarily help reduce the levels of violence but could further contribute to exacerbating the levels of frustration if any such prospective strategy or mechanism of effecting large scale surrenders and rehabilitating them. The catch lies in the word rehabilitation. Experience of military conflict years in Kashmir is replete with examples of surrendered militants being co-opted in the name of rehabilitation to work with the security forces and ultimately creating their own personal fiefdoms where they can perpetuate terror in the name of fighting insurgency.

The fresh announcement brings back the dreaded memory of the Ikhwanis notorious for their crimes against humanity and operating in their respective areas with full patronage of the security forces and the government. Many petitions against Ikhwanis remain pending in the courts and many reports by human rights groups and organizations have documented their tyranny. A book 'Meadow: Where the Terror began' by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, is a documentation of the unsolved mysterious case of kidnappings of 6 foreigners in 1995 by a lesser known militant outfit called Al Faran. The captors, the book argued, gradually changed hands and the foreigners who remain officially missing are claimed to have been killed by the Ikhwanis. It has also been well documented how the reluctant surrendered ultras were either left to rot in prisons for years despite the promises of rehabilitation made to them while effecting those surrenders or forced through coercive and intimidating tactics to pick up the gun to fight for the security forces, mostly to perform the dirty job of clandestine operations and fake encounter killings, even though they wanted to pursue other professions and delink themselves from the military conflict completely. The Ikhwani policy was never politically announced but the rehabilitation and amnesty scheme for youth who had crossed the Line of Control and had no major cases against them was framed and announced by the previous National Conference government. Despite that policy, many of those willing to return were unable to do so because there was no legal mechanism in place to ensure their return. Many of those who risked it by crossing the LoC or by traveling via Nepal were subsequently subjected to horrifying and prolonged periods of harassment, intimidations and even arrests. Both the perpetuation of the Ikhwani culture and a failed amnesty policy, more the former, contributed to sense of humiliation, anger, rage and frustration in Kashmir. Particularly, in view of such a history, the remarks of top military and police brass in Kashmir is something which brings more despair than generate hope.

It is important that if such a policy has to start, the government must announce it for its greater legitimacy, along with a framework of its broader contours. If the bait of surrenders is aimed to be used to wean away gunmen to shift loyalty from one side to another, it will only further militarise and vitiate the atmosphere and push Kashmir into a far more dangerous position than it today stands. Any such policy is workable as long as it promises the surrendered ultras a life of decency and detachment from military action.

News Updated at : Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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