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Omar's rehabilitation Policy

Firming Up Insurgency and Separatism

By Yoginder Kandhari

Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has announced that his government intends to bring back ‘misguided’ Kashmiri youth who have crossed over to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Pakistan, obviously for arms training,  during two decades of insurgency in the Valley.  He attempts to score a political brownie point over the Mufti father-daughter duo, his vociferous political opponents in the Kashmir Valley. It may be recalled that a proposal to bring ‘disillusioned’ Kashmiri youth back to their homes had earlier been mooted by the senior Mufti but then, rightly so, there were no takers in the Union government for this largesse to those who were waging a war against the nation. However, this time both Omar and Chidambaram claim to be on the same page albeit the wrong one. What strategic foresight has prompted centre to bite the Omar bait, especially in the current surcharged security scenario in the region, is anyone’s guess. Interestingly, Nasir.A.  Wani, a close friend of the Chief Minister and also a minister in his cabinet, has come out in support of Omar’s rehabilitation policy by drawing a bizarre analogy between the rehabilitation policy for militants and that for the Kashmiri Pandits who were forced into exile at gun point by these very Omar’s ‘misguided’ boys.

 In an attempt to steal some sheen out of Omar’s latest move, separatists were quick to reject ‘surrender’ component of his proposal since it would paint their cohorts as losers in the ongoing Jihad to liberate Kashmir. Strangely, Omar did a u-turn to re-christen his dice as ‘rehabilitation only’ policy. One wonders how insurgents can be rehabilitated without handing over their arms and, more importantly, abjuring cult of violence and religious intolerance which they espouse. It all points to a very disturbing scenario wherein Omar, unwittingly, appears to be furthering separatists’ agenda. Such a proposal, if implemented, would adversely impact security, political and social context in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the nation as a whole.

Security Implications

             Current Security Scenario.  Of late, there has been a steep increase in the number of encounters between militants and the security forces in the State, stand off grenade attacks and militancy related deaths. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), this year up, to 7th March, there already have been 64 fatalities which include 43 terrorists, 14 security personnel and seven civilians. After a gap of almost two years a fidayeen attack took place at Lal Chowk, the heart of the summer capital of the State. Infiltration by terrorists from across the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) in J&K is also on the rise. According to official sources, year 2009 recorded 485 incidents of infiltration as against 342 in 2008 thus registering an increase of 30% while security agencies estimate that more than 300 terrorists have crossed over to this side. During first two months of this year, militants made 25 attempts to infiltrate into our side in conjunction with five ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces, ostensibly to cover infiltrations by some important militants groups.  As per available official data (up to November 2009) 273 terrorists sneaked back to Pakistan, 93 were killed during infiltration attempts while 152 of them were neutralized across the state. State government estimates that about 600-800 terrorists are currently operating in the State. These figures present a gory scenario. To complicate the matters further, in 2009, UPA government pulled out 30,000 troops from twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch leaving majority of 50 identified infiltration routes thinly guarded. All these events do not foretell a rosy summer for our security forces.   At this juncture, talking about the return of the youth, whose faculties would sure have been Talibanized to the last strand, from across the border will be suicidal for our national interests.

            A spate of public protests and repeated incidents of stone pelting indicate that the insurgency in the Valley has graduated into a more complex phase manifesting  comprehensive assaults against the state authority and mass mobilization campaigns, aptly termed as ‘Agitational Terrorism’ by Lt. Gen. B. S. Jamwal, General Officer Commanding- in- Chief of Army’s Northern Command. Recently, Mr. N. K.Tripathi, Special Director CRPF, Jammu & Kashmir Zone, on February 2010, revealed how terrorist regimes were crafting public demonstrations and protests in conjunction with focused violence. He added that Pakistan’s covert agencies were hiring Kashmiris to pelt stones on security forces. Ajaat Jamwal, in his essay ‘From Terrorism to Agitational Terrorism in Kashmir’ published in South Asia Intelligence Review, says “Agitational terrorism is a far more sophisticated phenomenon than is currently being recognized by the authorities. Over ground support structures of terrorism including separatist and religious extremist political formations, civil rights NGOs, media organizations, subversive elements within the Government, international organizations operating from various countries in the West, have all been cast into roles in this campaign. Public protests and hertals (strikes) have been transformed into an assault on the credibility and symbols of the state.”

            Impediments. From the security stand point, challenges to implement this policy would be manifold. Firstly, database of the persons who have crossed over to the other side of the border is not available with any state agency. Even the figures projected by the State government are vague and its estimate ranges anything from 4,000 to 10,000. In such a situation what stops ISI and Jihadists from sending across battle ready terrorist via this route especially since, in the words of M.J. Akbar, a noted columnist, “….who has identified the proposed prodigals as authentic? They did not leave their names and address with the Intelligence Bureau in Srinagar when they went off to prepare for their holy war. There are no special genetic traits that differentiate Kashmiris on either side of LoC. The Pakistani government did not control this lot directly. They were outsourced to outfits like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Lashkar-e-Toiba, so only people who would know a genuine cross-border warrior from a home grown one would be Jamaat or LeT. Would Delhi honour certificates handed out by LeT?” It, indeed, is a valid argument.

            Secondly, it is difficult to imagine the type of mechanism that would be put in place to ascertain whether there has been a genuine change of heart among those craving to return home. A mere plea by some of them to Omar Abdullah, during his recent Pakistan visit, does not certify their genuineness. Surrendering of arms alone is not a guarantee that they would not relapse into armed rebellion against the state.

            Thirdly, one can well imagine fatal consequences of housing a pool of 4000 to 10000 fully trained and indoctrinated people amongst our middle. We need to learn our lessons well from recent history. Post independence, first attempt to militarize separatist sentiment in Kashmir was emergence of Al Fatah immediately after the Sacred Relic Agitation in 1963 when massive protests were witnessed in the Valley. It was for the first time that the separatists in the Valley realized that there existed a military option too to achieve their goal. Pakistan launched its second mission in 1965 to annex Kashmir and she was banking on the local support orchestrated by Al Fatah to achieve her goal. As is history now, this misadventure failed and Al Fatah had to lie low for a long time. Subsequently, its cadre was rehabilitated in the mainstream by the successive governments in the State under the pretext that it had abjured violence and the separatist ideology. Some of its members were absorbed in state apparatus thus enabling separatists to institutionalize their struggle. Their strategy was to join the system to wreck it from within to achieve the ultimate goal. It needs to be understood that the strong foundations for the current armed insurgency was laid by Al Fatah cadre entrenched within the State establishment itself.

Consequences. One needs to place the proposed rehabilitation policy in context of current security situation in the Valley.  With an alarming rise in incidents of infiltration, increase in militant encounters and agitational terrorism gaining popular support, rehabilitation of Omar’s boys may prove to a be the catalyst to foment another massive upheaval in the Valley leading to a powerful civil struggle, as witnessed in early 1990s in Eastern Europe, which would ultimately culminate in secession of Kashmir from Indian Union. One only hopes the political class and security think tanks in New Delhi have factored in all these possibilities before conceding to Omar’s move unless some larger consensus has already been arrived at.

Political & Social Implications

            It is an established fact that revival of the political process in the State was greatly helped by the militants who voluntarily surrendered to the security forces and joined the mainstream. Despite severe reprisal against their families and relatives by militant organizations these genuinely reformed militants remained steadfast in their commitment to Indian nation and helped her re-establishing its authority in the State. Unfortunately, such people have been forsaken both by the Sate and the Central governments. Without any patronage from the very state that they helped re-establish its authority, a large number of them and their kith and kin were killed or threatened with dire consequences so much so that  most of them had to shift their families out of the Valley and in many cases out of the State. One fails to understand why Omar Abdullah or Chidambaram have not cared to rehabilitate them before seeking amnesty for those who are still in Pakistan and whose credentials are yet to be established. Obviously, there is a compulsion to fast track rehabilitation of those who are still armed and discard those who abjured violence long back and proved beyond any doubt their loyalty to the nation.

            Equating latest rehabilitation policy with the rehabilitation schemes drawn for Kashmiri Pandits is a weird justification. Mr. Wani must remember that Kashmiri Pandits did not take up arms against the state nor did they go to Pakistan for any training. He is trivializing a human tragedy caused by the very people whose case he is pleading. Such a comparison has serious undertones and should not be considered as political naivety. Given Wani’s proximity to the Chief Minister, it appears that the Sate government wants to project Omar’s boys as victims of militancy- they could have suffered only at the hands of security forces- and internationally displaced people as a consequence. It is an attempt to internationalize this issue and that can have serious ramifications.

Conclusion.

Return of Omar’s prodigals is bound to reignite secessionist urge within the Valley. They would constitute a viable force to reinforce mass uprising in conjunction with a vigorous armed struggle for Kashmir to wither from India. It would be a sure-shot recipe to firm up insurgency and the separatist sentiment in the Valley. May be it is time for people who matter in New Delhi to wake up.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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