Former Valley militants turn to Indian Govt for relief

11 April 2008
The Indian Express
Riyaz Wani

SRINAGAR: It's another sign of the changing times in Kashmir. Former militants who earlier refused to recognise the sovereignty of India are now organising themselves into groups to demand their rehabilitation by the Government. Over the past one month, two such groups — Released Militants’ Rehabilitation Forum and J-K People's Rights Movement — have been formed in north Kashmir, once the fountainhead of jihad in the Valley. Though the former militants are still grappling to emerge from the shadows, the extraordinary nature of their message stands out loud and clear — they speak out against the separatist leadership, complain bitterly about being let down by them, recount the ordeals they went through, list their sacrifices and, of course, seek compensation. And they have no problem if that help comes from New Delhi. “We put our lives on the line for the cause of Kashmir. We lost everything. But what did we get? While the leaders enjoy comfortable lives, our families have been torn apart,” laments Ghulam Muhammad Mir, who heads the Released Militants’ Rehabilitation Forum. Mir does not mince words about what they see as the “betrayal” of Islamabad. “The same Pakistan which pitted us against India now welcomes and hosts the mainstream leaders. We feel cheated,” he says, in a reference to PDP president Mehbooba Mufti's high-profile visit to Pakistan recently. Mir claims his forum comprises around 300 released militants, and says they are open to other former militants who wish to join. The forum, he says, will pool money to give financial help to them. The first meeting of the Released Militants’ Rehabilitation Forum was held in Mir's native village, Kichhama, on April 6, with about a hundred former militants present. Another is planned at the nearby district headquarters Baramulla. “Then we will hold one in Srinagar,” says Mir. A parallel group, the J-K People’s Rights Movement, has already taken its campaign to Srinagar. On April 4, the group held its meeting at a hotel in the summer capital where its members related their stories to a packed hall. They talked of torture, killings, suicides and unemployment. Abdul Qadeer Dar, a former commander who heads the group, says they had formed it to fight for the rights of all released militants. “We have given up guns. Now we want to talk and share our troubles.”