In the late 1990s, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) recruited several Kashmiri youths who had worked for a terrorist outfit called the Muslim Mujahideen. The recruitment drive was part of the government's efforts to bring surrendered militants back into the mainstream.
The CRPF has now discovered that the Muslim Mujahideen existed only on paper and Kashmiri youths desperate to find a job had declared themselves "surrendered militants" to take advantage of the government's scheme.
Mansoor Ahmed Lone, recruited during a similar drive in 1998, is one of 1,000 such 'surrendered militants' with the paramilitary force. CRPF sources now agree that many of them may never have been militants. "We dug up the past about the Muslim Mujahideen. The outfit is fictitious," said a senior officer.
Though Lone, desperate for a job, lied to get in, the CRPF now stands by him. A report in a television channel had said that Lone and two other CRPF personnel on duty at the Prime Minister's residence were surrendered terrorists. "Lone was never with the Hizbul Mujahideen. He was never even posted for duty at the PM's residence. His record has been without blemish till now and at present he is posted in the Northeast," said CRPF DG J.K. Sinha.
While periodic drives in J&K and the Northeast have been launched to recruit surrendered militants, CRPF and other paramilitary forces take care not to keep records identifying these youths as such. "This is done to avoid discrimination at the ground level. Initially, they are kept in one battalion but later shuffled and sent to other battalions," said a CRPF officer.
Lone has had his tough moments, his past as a 'surrendered militant' returning to haunt him. In 2005, a constable, Rajkumar, lost his carbine. Lone, with his background, was the obvious suspect. But a probe cleared him and Rajkumar was dismissed from service.
On Thursday, Home Minister Shivraj Patil is likely to make a suo motu statement in Parliament on the claim made in the TV report.