Kashmir militants can join talks: Pillai
The largest Kashmiri guerrilla group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, has been "almost" vanquished now and if the militant leadership based in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir wants to join the peace process, they can, says home secretary GK Pillai.delhi Updated: Apr 09, 2011 15:30 IST
The largest Kashmiri guerrilla group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, has been "almost" vanquished now and if the militant leadership based in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir wants to join the peace process, they can, says home secretary GK Pillai.
The top official, responsible for managing the country's internal security related issues, said the government won't invite militant leaders for talks "unless and until they give up arms".
"Militancy is down in Kashmir, every day you must be reading reports that some militant leader or the other has been killed. I think the Hizbul Mujahideen has literally, almost, been wiped out, especially the Pakistan element of it has been wiped out," Pillai said.
He said the government had no proposal as of now to extend talks offer to Kashmiri militant leadership based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, especially to Syed Salahuddin, the Hizubul Mujahideen chief who also heads the United Jehad Council (UJC), a conglomerate of over a dozen terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
"If (he) Salahudin wants to come and talk, he is welcome if he gives up violence. We are not saying no to anybody. He has to come here and talk. Nobody is going there to talk to him," Pillai said.
Asked why the government was reluctant to take militant leaders onboard the peace process, Pillai said: "There are less than a hundred local militants (in Kashmir). Nobody would even talk to them. They don't represent anybody."
Jammu and Kashmir has been battling a bloody separatist campaign since 1989 that has left nearly 70,000 people, mostly civilians, dead. The figure is disputed with officials maintaining that the number of dead is 50,000. India has maintained hundreds of thousands of security forces in the state to fight the insurgency sponsored by Pakistan.
Thousands of Kashmiri youth in early 1990s had crossed the Line of Control - a de facto border that divides the state between India and Pakistan - for arms training in militant camps in the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control.
Pillai said the threat of revival of militancy remains even as the forces have been maintaining a tough vigil across the border with Pakistan.
"The threat is there. There are still people in the valley. There are hundreds of people still across (in Pakistani Kashmir) who want to come as the snow has started melting and it becomes easier for them to cross over. I am sure some will cross. We have to be vigilant, we have no option."
Pillai, who is retiring June 30, said the scheme to grant amnesty to Kashmiri militants in Pakistan who want to surrender and return home will take off soon.
"We have announced the scheme for those who are across and want to come over and take amnesty. The scheme has been announced, and in the next few months you will see lots of Kashmiris who had gone to that side will start coming."
The scheme announced last year will bring joy to hundreds of distressed familes in the Kashmir Valley and other Muslim-dominated areas in the Jammu region whose youths left them for jehad training in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, some 3,000 Kashmiri men are in Pakistan living in trying conditions, involved in petty jobs, many of them even begging, according to people who have visited the area. They have been writing to and calling up their families to express their desperation to return home - if the government gives them amnesty.
Pillai said the militant groups have not been able to recruit fresh Kashmiri youth in recent times, and this has also helped in curbing terror in the state.
"The recruitment of local militants is much less now. They are not effective that much."