Saturday, January 23, 2010

For ex-militants, shunning violence becomes life threat

Srinagar, Jan 23: The choice is between devil and the deep sea; and there is no lesser evil. After spending years in prison, the one-time militants never get to live a normal life. Fear of reprisals and even possible death stalk them once out of captivity. For, both the troopers and their former colleagues persecute them at the slightest excuse.
This sums up the life of former militants in Kashmir, two of whom were recently gunned down - one in the Apple Town of Sopore and another, in south Kashmir's Kulgam district. Talking to Rising Kashmir, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, Farooq Ahmad said police has already launched investigations into the killing of two former militants. He, however, attributed the double killing to militants. “They might have refused to join back the ranks and that’s why they got killed,” the IGP said.On whether police feared recycling of militancy in Kashmir in the name of “sleeping cells”, the Kashmir Police chief said, “Militants are militants. There is nothing called sleeping cells.” The killings, however, reinforce the fear element among former militants who vehemently maintain that their life was “hell” in their own homeland. With this in mind, Abdul Qadeer Dar, a former militant commander of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, has embarked on a mission to highlight the plight of former militants. He heads the Peoples Rights Movement comprising 5,000 ex-militants of Kupwara and Baramulla districts.Narrating the horrendous tales of his colleagues, Dar said for a former militant Kashmir has become a “cage” where he is bound to live.“I joined militant ranks in 1989 and went for arms training to Pakistan the same year. Police arrested me in Srinagar in 1996 and was released in 1999,” Dar said. Once out of prison, he thought he could now live a normal life. "But time proved me wrong,” he lamented.Like Dar, many former militants on release after completing their terms had to show up at respective police stations. “Not only this, we were summoned to the army camps for questioning. I remember, police and army officers used to call us by names and we have to raise our hands exactly as children do in school,” Dar said.An ardent supporter of right to self-determination, Dar said they can’t part ways with the struggle, at the base of which is the priceless sacrifices of people of Kashmir. “We are supporting the struggle through a non-violent way. We don’t indulge in any sort of violence ever since we were released,” he said.To what prompted him to form PRM, Dar said after his release he tried to keep himself busy with his family fruit business. “But the plight of my colleagues continued to haunt me everyday. Some of my friends (former militants) could not marry as nobody was ready to give out their daughters to them,” he maintained. “Many tried to eke a living outside the State. They were harassed in every Indian State they visited, forcing them to come back. Many of them are labourers, earning Rs 200 a day to feed their families,” Dar revealed.He said many of PRM members did not marry as their private parts were damaged during third-degree torture.On the recent killing of two former militants, Dar said rough estimates suggest there are 40,000 released militants in the State. “I believe all of them are facing life-threats,” Dar said.Continuing in the same vein, chairman Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement, Zafar Akbar Bhat said whosoever picks up the gun, does not know whether he would land in jail or die. Bhat was associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit and has spent his life’s prime years in prison. “Once we are out of jail, nobody comes to support us. We are strangers in our own homeland. Again, when a militant dies while fighting troops, people and leaders praise him for a few days, and later forget it,” he said.Bhat urged all separatist groups to evolve a consensus on how to deal with the released militants. Showkat Bakshi, another former militant who has spent 12 years in various jails and gone through worst forms of torture, is of the opinion that people like him are being treated like "non-entities" in the separatist groups they join. “I faced many challenges when released. The biggest challenge was to get a job. I could not get one till date. I am somehow managing to live,” Bakshi said. Citing the example of his friend, Bakshi said the plight of former militants could be gauged by the fact that his father was a government employee with a 40-year long service. “My father applied for passport and was denied it rightaway," he said. His brother, an MBBS, wanted to go outside India for job but his passport application met the same fate as his father's. "He is overaged now,” rued Bakshi.

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