Nothing wrong in return of militants: PC17 February 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Unfazed by Opposition criticism especially from the BJP, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said today that there was nothing wrong in facilitating the return of Kashmiri militants, who had gone to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and disclosed that the State Government has been asked to prepare a draft surrender policy at the earliest. 'If they (the militants) give up gun, come back and become law abiding citizens, there is nothing wrong in facilitating their return', he told a press conference along with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after over a two hour long Unified Council meeting here in which he was briefed by top brass of all security agencies. 'We will be very careful in drafting the policy. Nothing will be done in haste. This will take time as we will work on the scheme patiently and carefully', Mr Chidambaram said. He said he has asked the State Government to work out a draft policy on return of Kashmiri youths from PoK if they give up the gun but assured that all security concerns would be addressed while framing the policy. Allaying apprehensions that the proposed return of Kashmiri youths (militants) from PoK would escalate violence, he asserted that the scheme (surrender policy) is being worked out carefully and patiently. He observed that there was nothing new in the scheme as CRPF has already recruited one full battalion of surrendered militants while BSF has absorbed 450 ultras, who had given up the gun. A similar police is also in force in North Eastern and Naxal affected States. Mr Chidambaram, who refused to speak in Hindi despite demand by a journalist that his question be replied in the national language, said the surrender policy is being worked out. The State Government has been asked to prepare a draft policy and submit it to the Union Home Ministry at the earliest for its implementation, he added. 'The policy is not dangerous or sinister as projected from some quarters', he clarified. 'The State Government is working on a draft for return of Kashmiri youths from PoK. Their identification, screening, facilitation of travel from Pakistan, de-briefing, rehabilitation and integration with the country will be part of the policy', Mr Chidambaram said. 'I don’t agree that violence will go up. Once the scheme is finalised, we will be able to facilitate return of correct youths. The idea is to facilitate youth, who have crossed over to PoK, to return to the State and be united with their families if they shun militancy', he added. To a question as to whether the surrender policy was part of ongoing ‘quiet diplomacy’ on Kashmir, the Home Minister was of the view that there is nothing new about the idea. 'Please try to understand. There is nothing new (in the scheme). The paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had recruited a full battalion of surrendered militants (about 1000 men) in 1997-98. The BSF has also recruited 450 militants, who had surrendered before police. 'Therefore, militants-these young boys, who crossed over to PoK-if they give up militancy, come back and become law abiding citizens, there is nothing wrong in facilitating their return', he asserted but maintained that nothing would be done in a hurry. Every aspect would be carefully considered and examined before implementation of the policy, he said. Mr Chidambaram said a similar policy is in force in North Eastern and Naxal affected States. Recently, some surrendered militants have been recruited in Manipur police, he pointed out. If tomorrow Naxals give up arms and surrender, they would also be rehabilitated, he said. 'Why should I expect a response from Pakistan', was a stark reply of the Home Minister to a question as to whether there was any response from Pakistan on proposed surrender policy. Denying that former J&K Chief Minister and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s remarks on surrender policy reflected a voice of dissent within the Congress over the surrender policy, Mr Chidambaram revealed that Mr Azad spoke to him recently. 'Mr Azad simply flagged the points to be kept in mind while formulating the policy. I said yes, all those issues would be considered', he said, adding the Union Health Minister was told that the youths from across want to come back and unite with their families. All issues raised by the former J&K CM will be addressed when the policy is framed. To a questions as to whether a similar policy is being drafted for misguided Punjab Sikh youth, who had crossed over to Pakistan during militancy in Punjab or after ‘Operation Blue Star’, he said 'we have been talking about Jammu and Kashmir youths. I have not applied my mind to that aspect yet'. It may be mentioned that a Sikh organisation had demanded a similar amnesty like the one offered to Kashmiri militants for Sikh youths stranded in Pakistan. Replying to another question on dreaded Pakistani militant and Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HUJI) leader Ilyas Kashmiri’s threat to disrupt upcoming sports events in India including IPL, World Hockey Cup, Commonwealth Games etc, Mr Chidambaram said 'Ilyas Kashmiri can’t dictate our course of action. We can’t be deterred and we are not deterred by what he says'. He said the Government will provide full protection to everyone who participates in upcoming international sports events in the country. 'The Centre will provide full protection to every player, coach and official who participates in the forthcoming hockey or cricket tournaments or any other sports events in the Commonwealth Games. Ilyas Kashmiri had only yesterday threatened international players that they should not go to India and take part in IPL and Commonwealth Games. Kashmiri’s warning was posted by the ‘Asian Times Online’. The portal said it received Kashmiri’s message on Monday morning shortly after the Pune blast. On security scenario in the State on which he was briefed by top brass of security agencies during the Unified Council meeting, Mr Chidambaram observed 'the overall impression I have gained is that in Jammu region-south of Pir Panjal range-there is a greater degree of normalcy. In the region north of Pir Panjal, matters are under control'. He said in 45 days of this calendar year, there have been 65 incidents showing an increase in the number of militancy incidents. Seven civilians have been killed while nine security personnel including four each from Army and police and one from BSF have lost their lives. Twenty four militants have been neutralised during the period. 'The security forces are doing a commendable job. Gradually, they are gaining an upper hand. The security forces are heeding our advice. They are operating with great tact and wisdom. They are avoiding collateral damage even if militants are able to escape. They will be captured in next opportunity', the Home Minister said. Expressing satisfaction over improvement in situation in the State, he said the Government re-emphasised on the policy of zero tolerance of any violation of human rights or excesses by armed forces or police. Referring to the killing of a teen-ager in Srinagar by the BSF, he said he told the Chief Minister that he would try to identify the suspect in 48 hours. 'We did identify the BSF jawan in 48 hours, suspended him and handed him over to police. It is a good example of delivery of a promise by us'. On whether there was any Pakistan angle to the Pune blast, he said it was for the Pune Police Commissioner to brief on the investigations. To another question about a statement of Union Home Secretary G K Pillai, he said he was not supposed to elaborate what the Home Secretary says. Mr Chidambaram revealed that during two and a half hour long meeting, security scenario was reviewed in Unified Council meeting for two hours and in next half an hour security of projects was discussed with the Chief Secretary. Prior to Unified Council, the Home Minister had a one-to-one meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. He said Prime Minister’s Re-construction Plan (PMRP) related to security projects like construction of tenements for Kashmiri migrants, jobs for migrants on their return to the Valley, vacation of Government buildings by the security personnel etc were also discussed. Deadlines were fixed for some of the projects. The Unified Council meeting was attended among others by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, GOC-in-C Northern Command, Lt Gen B S Jaswal, Chief Secretary (officiating) Samuel Verghese, DGP Kuldeep Khoda, ADGP CID K Rajendera, Union Special Secretary (Internal Security) and top brass of Army, BSF, CRPF, IB, police and civil administration. Overall security situation was reviewed in the meeting, which was jointly chaired by Mr Chidambaram and Mr Abdullah. Various heads of security forces briefed about their performance and achievements. Sources said the Union Home Minister took views of top brass of security and Intelligence agencies on pros and cons of the return of Kashmiri youths from PoK and the approach to facilitate their return. In the Unified Council meeting, Mr Chidambaram had some tough questions for security agencies after he was told that as many as 1.5 lakh pre-paid mobile subscribers were verified with nothing adverse being found. Mr Chidambaram asked officers of Intelligence agencies about the details of pre-paid mobile connections verified since January 22 till date. The Centre had lifted ban on pre-paid mobile phones on January 22 and asked telecome operators and security agencies to re-verify all the customers before starting the services on SIM cards. When told by senior Intelligence officials that 1.50 lakh customers had been verified so far till February 15, Chidambaram wondered whether it was possible to verify such a large number of customers in such a short span of time. The Minister also raised doubts as to how nothing adverse was found even in a single case. According to the intelligence agencies, 6,250 phones were verified per day between January 22 and February 15 (24 days). These 24 days included two holidays and eight days of hartal in Kashmir province.