February 2004 News

Cash, jobs to Kashmir terrorists for guns

12 February 2004
The Hindustan Times
Indo-Asian News Service

Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are dangling the carrot of cash and jobs to separatist gunmen if they surrender but the move has already attracted flak from several quarters, reports OneWorld. Under the policy, each terrorist who turns himself in is entitled to a bank deposit of $3,000 and a monthly stipend of $40 for three years. The terrorist also gets vocational training gratis and an interest-free loan for setting up a business. As a safeguard, the deposit can be cashed only after security agencies furnish a no-objection certificate based on the surrendered terrorist's behaviour over a three-year period. The scheme, drawn up by the Unified Command Headquarters, a counter-insurgency coalition of Indian security and intelligence agencies fighting the 15-year-long insurgency in Kashmir, has got the central government's green signal. The scheme will be funded through a special fund for curbing militancy that is reimbursed by the Home Ministry. Security agencies say around 3,000 terrorists are active in the state, two-thirds of them in the Kashmir Valley. Almost 50 per cent of the rebels are locals, the rest being Pakistanis, Afghanis or those belonging to PoK. 'This is a 'welcome- home policy' rather than a surrender scheme. We want the local terrorists to abandon the path of violence and start a peaceful life anew,' says Kashmir Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baigh. The new scheme is strictly for local terrorists who have undergone a change of heart in the current environment, adds Kashmir's top bureaucrat, Sudhir Singh Bloeria. Terrorists of foreign origin or locals involved in heinous crimes are out of the policy's ambit. 'A pro-active approach will continue to crush them,' says a senior police officer, K Rajindra. The scheme is likely to address for the first time those terrorists who have crossed the Line of Control and are presently living across the border. But they will not get any incentives. Terrorists who have availed themselves of previous amnesty schemes and then rejoined terrorist groups would not qualify as beneficiaries of the new policy. The authorities are working out the modalities for setting up specified places for terrorists to surrender before the competent authorities. They say the amount paid would depend upon the type of weapon surrendered. The policy is the first major initiative the state's coalition government has taken to address militancy. At a public rally last month, state Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said: 'We want terrorists to abandon their hideouts in the forest and join their families and friends honourably.' The response from terrorist groups is hardly encouraging though. A key terrorist group has already rejected the offer. Syed Salahuddin, the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest indigenous terrorist outfit, described the policy as a deception. Salahuddin, who is also chairman of the United Jehad Council and is based in Pakistan, added: 'The Indian government cannot buy Kashmiri terrorists and people for surrendering their claim to freedom.' Separatist outfits believe the scheme is designed to buy over terrorists rather than win hearts. 'Instead of engaging them in a dialogue they are being asked to surrender arms,' says GN Shaheen, a leader of the Hurriyat Conference, a grouping of separatist parties. The opposition National Conference party believes the policy is politically motivated. 'Mufti Sayeed wants to raise a group of renegades who will be used against the opposition in the forthcoming parliamentary elections,' alleged a party leader, Mir Saifullah. Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh claims the scheme is anti- national. Singh's party, a key constituent of the government, says: 'Our youths are jobless but the government is interested in rehabilitation of terrorists instead.' Others fear it may set an unhealthy trend. Said one security officer: 'Militancy is already a lucrative business. Now such amnesty schemes will encourage boys to take up militancy for the likely benefits.' For their part, Indian security forces expect a phenomenal response to the scheme. 'Our intelligence inputs reveal that a majority of local terrorists want to abandon the path of violence and be given another chance,' said one official. 'We have opened the door. It is up to them to make the entry.'


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