After years of military presence and violence, India may enact a plan to rehabilitate and temporarily resettle Kashmiri youth who abandon militancy, according to the top commander in the Kashmir Valley.
Lieutenant General B.S. Raju revealed to Reuters over a phone interview on Wednesday, that the plan for this new scheme has been submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and is in the advanced stages of approval. The aim of this scheme is to give ex-militant Kashmiri youth exposure outside the conflict-ridden valley, and take a long term approach towards rehabilitating them.
"The bottom line is that it will have a structure that will help give confidence to people for opting to surrender" said the Lieutenant General.
An Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer patrols on an empty street during a lockdown in Srinagar August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
On 5th August 2019, the current BJP-led government enforced a lockdown in the Kashmir valley, and enacted the abrogation of Article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status of autonomy. It must be noted that by this time Article 370 had become so diluted that it was near obsolete. However, the clampdown on the valley gained a lot of criticism as experts felt it would only further alienate Kashmiris. However, since then, militancy has decreased in Kashmir, says recently released report drafted by security agencies. The report states that, an average five local youths have joined militancy every month since August 5 last year, a significant decrease from 14 per month. The report also states that funerals of militant youth have become exclusively for the family’s sake instead of being open to the public, to hinder recruitment of youths for militancy at these venues. According to Lt Gen Raju, an estimate of 70 local Kashmiris are believed to have been recruited from the beginning of the year, a dozen less than the count for the same period last year.
India has previously implemented surrender and rehabilitation policies in Kashmir the first of which came in 1995, to little success. The 2004 rehabilitation policy accepted Kashmiri youth who wanted to give up arms and accept the Indian Constitution, Rs 1,50,000/- in FD payable three years after surrender. As of 2015, 432 militants had availed this offer. The 2010 Policy on the Return of Ex-Militants to the State had a broader framework to rehabilitate ex-militants from the state of Jammu and Kashmir who had crossed the border to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, for training in insurgency, if they were willing to give up arms and rejoin civil society. However, as of 2016, only 489 of the 4587 militants returned to avail the option, as of 2016. It is also worth noting that the 2010 policy was the only one to include psychological rehabilitation centres for ex-militants and families, however they were never set up.
These policies aimed to motivate militants to surrender, and to reintegrate them into Kashmiri society. However, the number of militants was more than triple the 2010 number, by 2018. India has flooded the valley with security forces - about 200,000 military and paramilitary troops are deployed there. According to the Indian military, around 180 militants are still operating in the Kashmir Valley. So it is not enough for this scheme to be enacted, how it will differ from its predecessors is crucial and still remains to be seen.