Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday said India was ready to “welcome” Kashmiris who went to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the 1990s if they had given up militancy.
“The idea that any Indian who had crossed over to PoK and wishes to return to India is certainly welcome,” he said, throwing his weight behind a demand the Centre had brushed under the carpet for the past four years.
Chidambaram, who made it a point to stress that PoK was Indian territory, said the idea of allowing their return had been accepted.
“This idea must now be translated into a scheme,” he said, adding that this was a recommendation of one of the working Groups groups appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Then chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mohammed Hamid Ansari headed the group that submitted its report in 2007.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, It’s a welcome step. I think the home minister has understood the sensitivity of the situation. Now it’s the time for process to begin. We have our own task chalked out for it… It would boost confidence of the people in our system.”
Abdullah had raised the demand at the conference of chief ministers over the weekend and received an assurance from Chidambaram that he would have a policy formulated.
Opposition party PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the “announcement was an endorsement of the PDP’s policies; the PDP had raised the demand more than four years ago.”