Wahid Bhat| SRINAGAR
The Pakistani wives of Kashmiri former militants who had returned from Pakistan-administered-Kashmir under a rehabilitation programme on Saturday demanded that the state government provide them travel documents so that they are able to return to their families across the Line of Control.
Addressing a press conference in Kashmir Press Club at Polo View in Srinagar, they said that they had come with their husbands to Kashmir after the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced rehabilitation programme for surrendered militants in 2010.
“We are nearly 350 women who have come to Kashmir under rehabilitation policy of the state government, through Nepal border,” they told the media persons during the presser.
They said that the promises made by the state government with them have not been fulfilled. “We ask the state government to provide us travel documents and citizenship rights so that we are able to meet our families and relatives in Pakistan”, they said.
The policy was meant for those men, who crossed over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir between Jan. 1989 and Dec. 2009 for arms training but later laid down arms and were willing to return to India.
However, nearly a decade later, the policy has left the Pakistani wives and children of these former militants craving for a place they could call home.
“We are even denied basic documents like identity cards, ration cards,” Shabana, in her 30s, married to ex militant Ashraf Mir said.
According to police data, 377 former militants, who married in Pakistani Kashmir have returned to Kashmir along with 864 family members since 2010 when the rehabilitation policy was announced.
All of them are struggling to access their basic citizenship rights, including identity proof, without which they are unable to admit their children to schools.
Frustrated and angry over their predicament and the future of their children, scores of wives of former militants staged a demonstration in Srinagar, the main city of Indian Kashmir, demanding they be either sent back to Pakistan, or allowed a life of dignity.
The women appealed Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, and J&K Governor Satya Paul Malik to look into the matter and address their concerns.
The problem lies partly in the gaps left by the rehabilitation policy. In 2017, the state government revealed that only 377 former militants, along with 864 family members, had returned from Pakistan since 2010. They had all come via Bangladesh and Nepal, however, and not by the approved routes for “inexplicable reasons and difficulties”. So, the government made them ineligible for benefits under the policy.
Ahmad, 49, and now working as a bus driver, left for Pakistan in 1990. He went to Karachi, acquired refugee status, and married his wife in 2000.
“From my village it was normal for young boys to be killed. My younger brother lost his life. Another relative also fell to the Indian bullets. I left for Pakistan at the age of 16 to save my life,” he said.
‘Looking into it’
K. Vijay Kumar, adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satya Pal Malik, said the issue was being taken seriously by the government. He told Arab News that the families “were given four routes to come back to India: Via Delhi International Airport, and the Wagah, Poonch and Uri border points, but most of them came via Nepal and did not have Indian passports.
“If a woman is from Pakistan administrated Kashmir (PaK) then there is a rigorous procedure and the No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to her is valid for only two weeks. We cannot compromise security,” he said.
Ahmad, though, claims that the only route available to his family and others to return to India was through Nepal, as all other routes were closed.