In a significant gesture, the government on Thursday said it was ready to "welcome" Kashmiris who had gone to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) if they were ready to return after giving up militancy.
"The idea that any Indian who had crossed over to PoK and wishes to return India is certainly welcome," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters backing the proposal mooted by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
"The idea is accepted... This idea must now be translated into a scheme," the Home Minister said, adding it was one of the recommendations of one of the Working Groups appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for recommending measures to address problems of Jammu and Kashmir.
Replying to questions at a briefing after meetings of the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Chidambaram said the return could be facilitated through a scheme which will entail identification, screening, travel, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Noting that "PoK is actually an Indian territory", he said the government "should facilitate the return" of those who had gone across the Line of Control for "some reasons".
Significantly, his statement counters the view of his Cabinet colleague and former J and K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who has questioned the idea of allowing the return as he apprehended that they could come here to "create trouble".
Thousands of Kashmiri youths had crossed over to PoK from 1989 to join militant ranks. While many of them infiltrated back, a large number has not returned. Around 800 of them are understood to have conveyed their desire, through various channels, to return home.