By K.N. Pandita
Return and rehabilitation of the militants stuck up in Pakistan or PoK under the Rehabilitation Policy of the State government is becoming a mysterious and weird issue. True, it may demonstrate liberalism of the State Government and grand show of humanistic philosophy, but the question is whether the militants themselves are ready to show a change of heart.
About 3000 militants are reported to be in Pakistan and PoK. 262 of them have returned along with Pakistani wives and children. 1094 militants have applied for return through their families. These statics are provided by official sources.
All of the militants who have returned came via Nepal. None of them adopted any one of the four prescribed routes under the Rehabilitation Plan. These are Poonch-Rawlakot route in Jammu region, Uri-Muzaffarabd route in Kashmir, Wagah route in Punjab and IGI airport New Delhi. Why did not even one of the returning militant use any one of the prescribed routes and why did they adopt only Nepal route not even Bangaldesh? This question needs to be answered.
Obviously, the returning militants have taken flight from Islamabad to Kathmandu and then crossed the Indo-Nepal soft border. If they could take this long flight, why did not they take the shorter flight from Lahore to IGI, New Delhi which was cheaper and took only an hour?
Had they taken any of the four prescribed routes, they would have received financial support under the Rehabilitation Policy and other benefits as well. But they did not choose to follow the prescribed route and have foregone the financial assistance which otherwise would have accrued to them. These questions need to be raised and their answer sought.
It will be noted that many of them had made attempts to cross the LoC in Poonch and other sectors but the army pushed them back. They could as well have been fired at by the border security force as suspected infiltrators. We need to ask why they took the risk of life when they had the easy option of safe return.
There seem to be strong reasons for them for not adopting the prescribed routes and instead choosing to come only through Nepal route. It has further to be noted that the J&K Police department had asked UP and Bihar governments to allow them to establish their post on Indo-Nepal border to monitor the return of these militants from Pakistan or PoK. This suggestion has been turned down. The question is why should have such a suggestion be made? It gives rise to so many doubts and questions. UP government has its own system of checks and monitoring on the Nepal border and no state would be willing to surrender its rights and duties to any other organization much less the police authorities of a state whose militants are using the border for crossing into India.
This matter has many dimensions and there is every possibility that the militants are being guided not to use the prescribed routes and instead choose Nepal route.
There are other questions. The militants are Kashmiri nationals who had clandestinely entered a foreign country, namely Pakistan. They married a foreign spouse and had children from them. What is the nationality of these children? What does the Indian Constitution say about it and what does the Pakistani Constitution say? Obviously, as they are born on Pakistani soil, they are eligible for Pakistani citizenship. Under international law, they have every right to ask for Pakistani nationality. If this issue is not resolved, there will be a time when hundreds of them will claim for dual citizenship of India and Pakistan. This is a technical issue.
There is no doubt that there are forces within and outside the country actively supporting return of the militants in right or wrong way. These forces have brought so much of pressure on the Home Ministry that now the Ministry is mulling a new set of Standing Operating Procedures under which entry of these militants through Nepal route will be legalized.
There should be no objection to allowing this route also, but before doing so it is the duty of the Home Ministry to order through investigation in the decision of the militants not to adopt any of the four prescribed routes. It has to be recollected that most of clandestine espionage and militant leadership intrusions related to Kashmir insurgency have taken place via Nepal. Hijacking of an Indian airplane also happened as a result of conspiracy hatched in Kathmandu. Many JKLF meetings and seminars took place in Nepal and for all anti-India elements Nepal became a usual and common place of coming together.
Rehabilitation Policy of the State is essentially based on the thinking that the youth were misled and misdirected and lured to the training camps. It is also presumed by the State government that these militants have repented and decided to give up the gun. This is a premise and not a confirmed reality. No returning militant so far gave a public statement that he was lured through false propaganda and misinformation and that he would want to go through a change of heart.
The militants who had taken up guns and undergone training and brainwashing to destabilize the government in Kashmir are now treated as guests by the same political parties that are ruling the State. This does happen in politics but the question is this: Is the State Government convinced that the guest militants have really undergone change of heart and believe in secular democratic dispensation? They have very close social, ideological and above all matrimonial relations with people and families in PoK and Pakistan. They have spent the prime of youth in those parts of the globe. They actually become Pakistani Diaspora in Kashmir, and the connections are far more strong and inseparable than one might think.