J-K: Rehab Policy For 'militants' Raises Hope Of Union In Families2 January 2011
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Ghulam Mohammad Bhat is hopeful that the rehabilitation policy for local militants, who want to return home from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), will help him reunite with his family. A team of officials from Special Branch Kashmir, the intelligence gathering wing of Jammu and Kashmir police, went around 13 villages in Uri tehsil to make them aware about the rehabilitation policy announced by the state government. They also informed the residents about the procedure to be followed for facilitating the return of their loved ones from PoK. The policy for the return of the militants from PoK was approved at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in November last year. Bhat, a resident of Sohra village near the Line of Control (LoC), is now planning to file an application expressing the desire of his wife, two sons and two brothers to return home under the new policy. 'I am happy that the government has finally acted on this humanitarian problem as not all of those who are stuck on the other side of the LoC are militants,' Bhat said. When his family left for PoK, Bhat's two sons – Yaqoob (10) and Ibrahim (five) - were just boys. Twenty years down the line, they must have grown into fine young men, the grey-haired man said. Though none of Bhat's family members was involved in militancy, they had crossed over to PoK in 1990 when large number of Army troops were moved to villages bordering the ceasefire line to check the movements of militants. 'It was a confusing situation and we did not understand what was going on around us. Nobody from the state government or the army took us into confidence about such large-scale movement of the soldiers in our area,' he claimed. Big groups of heavily armed militants and columns of soldiers were frequently sighted in the area and the Bhats thought that an India-Pakistan war is eminent. 'We thought it would be wiser to move away from the border as that is where all the fighting takes places. All the family, except me, moved to Muzaffarabad as we have few relatives there,' he said. Officials are tight-lipped about the number of applications received under the policy so far but sources said one application was submitted before the concerned officials on Friday. The man, whose parents and brother had crossed over to PoK 20 years ago, did not want to be identified and refused to give any further details. According to sources, there are nearly 400 families in Uri tehsil alone which crossed over to PoK during the first three years of militancy. The number of members in these families has gone up, from around 1200 in 1991, to over 1,600. The worst-affected villages are Sohra, Hathlanga, Tillawari, Balkote, Churunda, Singh, Tungh, Azadbadya, Gwalta, Nawaronda, Dardkote and Zamoor Pattan, sources said. Similarly, several villagers had crossed over to PoK in the wake of insurgency in the state in Macchil, Keran and Karnah sectors of Kupwara district. Omar Abdullah, during his visit to Pakistan few years back, had met some of the families and their plight was one of the reasons for his vigorous pursuance of the rehabilitation policy after taking over as the chief minister in 2009.