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Government considers giving general amnesty to crossover youth

Fifty- six- year- old Mughli Begum lost her senses in delight when she heard the news on television about Government considering to give general amnesty to the youth who crossed over to Pakistani side of Kashmir during militancy but now willing to come back.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2010 10:00 IST

Fifty- six- year- old Mughli Begum lost her senses in delight when she heard the news on television about Government considering to give general amnesty to the youth who crossed over to Pakistani side of Kashmir during militancy but now willing to come back.

Within minutes calls starting pouring in from near and dear ones. “The Government’s announcement was as if Eid for us. I still don’t believe that it is going to happen. I am going to see my son again.” says Mughli with full of hope.

Her son, Mohammad Yousuf (now called Jehangir), had crossed over to Muzaffarbad in 1991 when he was hardly 15

“The atmosphere at that time was so charged in favor of Jihad. Youth were crossing without considering its consequences,” Mughli says, at her modest home in Nawpora in down town Srinagar.

After 19 years, the teenager Yousuf, has turned into a father himself. He has three children, the elder as old as 10 years. His parents say that he did not join militants in Muzaffarabad but instead started a Paper-Machie unit (a type of Kashmiri art).

“He is craving to return but you know the situation for those who return,” She says. “We were not given even passport, so that we could meet him. Even police here tell me that he did not join militants but still he can’t return like this. They would put him into jail,” Mughli says.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah some days back advocated for the idea of “general amnesty to militants in Pakistan controlled Kashmir who want to return without weapons and join mainstream”. While accepting the proposal Home Minister P.Chidhambaram on Thursday told media that a scheme would be formulated after consulting all the sections of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir.

Thousands of youth during the decade of 1990’s crossed over to Pakistani controlled Kashmir to get arms training after armed insurgency started in Kashmir in 1989. Some came back to join militancy here, some were killed on borders and some did not return but instead married and started their lives there.

There are no official figures from government about the number who want to return , but unofficial count put the number as high as 1000.

Like Mughli’s, there are many families who are ecstatic about the decision. And, as per the families, the yearning for their sons to return have been no less who fear death or arrest on Line of control if they try to sneak in.

In-fact two men who had crossed over to the Pakistan controlled Kashmir in 1990 to train as militants surrendered before the police in North Kashmir in December last year after they returned to India via Nepal.

Abdul Rashid Chopan of Magam and Mohammad Altaf Hajam of Tangmarg were members of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).Both men married local girls across the border and returned with their families. Chopan has three daughters, none of them older than six years, while Hajam has two young sons, the police said.

However police did not take a lenient view of their return but instead registered cases against them. Their wives also would be deported once the legal formalities would complete.

Seen in this context the idea of “general amnesty” can be good confidence boosting step among people.

But there are some families as well who doubt the whole exercise

“There are hundreds of agencies working in Kashmir. Even if government gives general amnesty, what about those agencies which it can’t control? We keep on craving for our near and dear ones but we don’t want to risk their lives,” says 30 year old Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Ikhrajpora in posh uptown area of Srinagar.

Muzaffar’s brother, Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, had crossed over to become a Hizb militant in 1992. But Manzoor, 40 years old now, has a wife and three kids and is living in Faisalabad. “He is safe there, earning for his family. There he can freely roam and live his life,” Muzaffar says, selling vegetables at his old fashioned shop, some metres away from his home.

Muzaffar says that even after constructing safe zones for migrant Pandits in Kashmir why aren’t they returning. “When there is no guarantee of a Pandit in safe zone, who will guarantee my brother’s safety with the tag of a former militant,” he says.

In-fact the concern of Muzaffar is not misplaced. There have been examples of surrendered militants being killed or getting disappeared.

Mukhtar Ahmad Beigh, 29 year old son of Taja Begum of Sonawar in Srinagar surrendered after being an active militant during mid-nineties. “After surrender he spent two years in jail and then started his business of selling cigarettes on whole sale,” recounts Taja.

Everything was going fine when one day in 1999 security forces again knocked on the door of Taja. “They took away my son after a road side bomb blasted a truck of army at the near-by Boulevard road on the banks of Dal lake,” Taja says.

“He did not return home ever since,” Taja’s eyes fill with tears.