Congress has reservations on Kashmir militants’ rehab policy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JAMMU - Though the Congress, a partner in the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, did not raise any objections in the cabinet meeting Monday to the rehabilitation policy for militants, party leaders are reported to be having serious reservations on the issue.

Soon after the cabinet meeting was over, senior Congress leaders were reported to have gone into a huddle to discuss the implications of the rehabilitation policy, which aims at the return and facilitation of about 3,000 Kashmiri youth who have returned from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

We had tried to get this policy redrafted and defer a decision on it and had succeeded when we were able to prevail upon Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to postpone it till the cabinet meeting in Jammu, a Congress minister told IANS. He claimed the policy was first put on agenda for approval at a cabinet meeting in Srinagar in October this year but the Congress plea led to its postponement.

Three Congress ministers stayed away from Monday’s cabinet meeting, according to sources in the party.

Congress ministers have made their reservations known to the party leadership in New Delhi. They could not oppose the policy here because they have received no directions to that effect, the Congress sources said.

Congress state unit chief Saifuddin Soz has been critical of the ways of the chief minister and is on record to have criticised several of the decisions of the National Conference.

Sources said that Soz would be taking up the issue with the party high command, and point out that the rehabilitation policy would damage the party in Jammu region, where there is a strong anti-terrorism sentiment. The Congress has its base in Jammu region.

The Jammu and Kashmir government Monday approved a rehabilitation policy for those militants who went across to Pakistani Kashmir for arms training but now seek to return home.

According to the policy, the militants desirous of returning can inform their family or relatives here of their intention.

A senior minister told IANS on condition of anonymity that the process will not be easy, and those seeking to return will have to undergo a series of screenings before they are granted permission.

The central home ministry and intelligence agencies will also be involved in the screening these militants for rehabilitation package.

The policy, meant to facilitate the return and rehabilitation of about 3,000 Kashmiri militants, was announced by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in February this year, and was endorsed by the central government.

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