Rehabilitation Policy and Possibility of Reconciliation

by Haifa Peerzada

While some surrendered militants have been accommodated and rehabilitated, majority of them still face difficulties on account of basic structural and institutional problems. Disillusioned by this, there is also a fear of getting thrown back to 1990’s. It is also facilitated as a part of a broader goal of long term settlement of the Kashmir Conflict by India and Pakistan. What will finally lead to the success of this rehabilitation policy and reconciliation?

On March 20, 2013, Delhi Police claimed to have arrested top Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Liaqat Ali in train from Gorakhpur on his way to Delhi. It was alleged that he was sent to launch attacks in the national capital of India just ahead of Holi, to create terror. This incident which did not get as much attention in the media as January skirmishes at the LOC and hanging of Afzal Guru, actually elicits the same attention as the former two as far as the intractable nature of the Kashmir Conflict is concerned. The event could be read as just another obstacle in the same line of transaction in which India and Pakistan have been involved for 65 years now – resolution of the Kashmir conflict. In this context, situation seems to be grim since January 2013, which had brought some hope last year when India and Pakistan resumed the peace dialogue, after it was stalled in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

This incident claims even more importance now as it happened just over a month after Afzal Guru’s hanging. These incidents are essentially rooted in the fear of fuelling terrorism and aiding of militancy from across the border. For the same reckoning, Liaqat Ali hailing from Kashmir was also arrested and booked under anti-terror laws, despite being a militant willing to surrender and return back to his homeland after years of exile. This has been however disputed by the Delhi Police while the Home Ministry at the centre ordered an investigation into the matter by the NIA, pressed upon by the Chief Minister of J&K, Omar Abdullah as well. The only thing different in this case was that no terrorist attack actually took place, which was supposedly foiled by the Delhi Police. Subsequently he was released on bail after investigations conducted by the NIA due to lack of evidence against him. This event has raised certain important questions which needs a deeper understanding – Is such a confidence building measure, where India is trying to rehabilitate and welcome the surrendered militants as a step towards reconciliation, possible? If reconciliation is not possible in such a case, what is the problem that is preventing it? What is the way out of it?


In 1989, many Kashmiri youth crossed the borders for getting trained in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Pakistan for gureilla warfare against the Indian state. It is these people who we term as militants who tried to wage war against India for realizing their right to self-determination.  As the intensity of insurgency reduced many of them became weary of war and disillusioned by the sad state of affairs and their treatment in Pakistan, decided to return. Nevertheless war weariness also prompted them to give up arms and they renounced militancy with an urge to start their lives afresh.

Many of them who returned and surrendered stayed back and started their lives afresh, while others went back and took up jobs on the other side of the border. Many of those who stayed back were not afforded a life of dignity, free of fear and were always looked at with suspicion. Some of them were even indicted without any justifiable reason or fair trial and the most recent and prominent example would be hanging of Afzal Guru, which brought the Kashmir Conflict in the forefront yet again. With the arrest of Liaqat Ali and the subsequent accusation of the Delhi Police led many to question this rehabilitation policy in the light of Afzal Guru Incident.

Rehabilitation Policy – A bane or a boon?

Coming back to India through so called “illegal route” of Nepal is nothing new. Therefore discussing the alternative routes is not called for and is the most insignificant thing to be discussed this time. It had begun even before J&K government and the Central Government in India came to an understanding in 2009, to rehabilitate ex-militants who wished to come back. Even before formal negotiations between the Centre and the State on this issue began in 2004, a lot of ex-militants came back in 1990’s through this route. The four entry points for return include Wagah Border (Punjab), Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkote. Denying assistance or rehabilitation on the ground that they have returned from illegal routes not provided for is the most callous mistake or even a statement that Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah could have made in the State Assembly. Though the political symbolism attached to Kashmir still remains at the forefront of the conflict between India and Pakistan but the back channel cooperation of India and Pakistan on the issue of return of former militants deserves commendation. It was only with the concurrence of the governments in India and Pakistan that made the escape route for former Kashmiri militants and their families possible through Nepal.

It is also considered as one of the confidence building measures between India and Pakistan towards reconciliation for facilitating a successful process of conflict settlement of Kashmir through Alternative Dispute Resolution. This warrants more importance than anything else in the current context for the entire region. It clearly shows the intention of policymakers on both sides of the border to engage constructively in the peace process which could ultimately also lead to resolution of the Kashmir conflict. However the distrust, fear and mutual hostility between the two hinders that progress, especially with security and intelligence agencies of both the countries adding fuel to the fire. It is quite disconcerting to see that the policy making gets utterly influenced by the misguided presumptions of the security and intelligence communities. As absurd an allegation by the Delhi Police it may have sounded, that a person, potentially a surrendered militant, had come with arms and ammunitions with the intention of launching a terrorist attack in Delhi, it also brings in question the credibility of our security and intelligence agencies underscored by their structural fallacies. These fallacies find expression in the old structures that are yet to emerge from the British colonial legacy. This post-colonial scenario is postulated in the work of intelligence agencies being restricted to handling law and order problems and dealing with alleged spies from the rival countries. This has also led to reluctance on part of India and Pakistan to share intelligence information. Nevertheless there is disconnect not just between intelligence and security communities but also between security communities and the civilian leadership, which renders the system virtually infructuous to deal with such sensitive issues in both the countries. Therefore, when it comes to Kashmir, it seems the intelligence and security agencies in both India and Pakistan move forward with such acts on account of mutual hostility and distrust for each other. Such fallacies coupled with illegal detentions under anti-terror laws have become a common ground as far as Kashmiris in Kashmir or elsewhere in India are concerned. This in the long run would neither benefit the two countries nor the settlement of the Kashmir conflict.

While this aspect of the matter remains at the forefront, there are other equally significant institutional and structural problems that warrant attention for reconciliation to come to fruition. Not going to the numbers of how many former militants have been rehabilitated, it is well established that majority are still waiting to return, while others who have returned are disillusioned with the system and the way it is seeking to rehabilitate them. Internationally, it is in India’s benefit to rehabilitate the former militants and their families, as it can show to the world that insurgency is going down and normalcy is returning in Kashmir. However domestically it has created lot of difficulties for India, which is due to deficiencies in its institutional setup. For example one of such problems is with respect to unemployment and as a result such people are left with less money to sustain their lives among other problems of underdevelopment. There is also a problem with respect to giving citizenship to their spouses and families who are foreign nationals and India does not have such strong institutions and also support from Pakistan, to enable that. Such systems are not yet in place to facilitate successful implementation of this scheme. So far nothing seems to have been done. The very first principle of natural justice is justice should not only be done, but also seem to have been done. While this amnesty scheme has given hope to many to return to their homes, it has also left them disillusioned with the way the system works and has still not been able to assist them fully to rebuild their lives. This may have serious repurcussions in the long run and has a potential to throw India back to 1990’s as the relations between India and Pakistan remain fragile, especially with respect to the Kashmir Conflict.


Path to success

It is well established in academic and policy literature that national security and human security complement and are not in contravention with each other. It is pertinent to refer to this in finding a way towards successful process of reconciliation which cannot be achieved in the prevailing national security paradigm of India and Pakistan. In this context, it is important for both India and Pakistan to move beyond their old patterns of national security which is basically reminiscent of the British colonial legacy as described above. The world is moving beyond Westphalian conception of state and it is essential for both India and Pakistan to realize the importance of human security in this context. With insecure people, state cannot be secure, which has become a fact in the contemporary world. This is not to say that national security has lost its significance, but the fact that it needs to be modified with the changes happening in the 21st century.

In the context of Kashmir, national security imperatives cannot be achieved by bringing in more armed forces and paramilitary troops to curb any resistance, which exemplifies the post-colonial mindset of India in handling such a sensitive issue.  There has to be a modified understanding of national security which should primarily deal with improving the security and intelligence agencies and for them to move beyond the stereotypes. The structure of security and intelligence agencies could be improved through modernization by bringing in more professionalism through capacity building and training. While this is a necessary predicament, it is equally important to look at human security while filling in such contours of national security and building solid institutions to deal with the issues that the returnees are confronted with. In that context, also India will have to move beyond structural impunity by virtue of which people in the Kashmir Valley suffer institutionalized human rights violations, which only alienates them from the Indian state. All these aspects have to be considered and worked upon and only then reconciliation as a way for successful implementation of the rehabilitation policy will come to fruition and become an open ended process. This would potentially in the long run also lead to resolution of the Kashmir conflict.   


Haifa Peerzada is a law graduate from University of Delhi and in 2010, she enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi and licensed to practice law by the Bar Council of India in 2011. She also holds a M.A in International Relations (Security) from the University of Birmingham. She is inclined towards alternative dispute resolution and conflict resolution, including policies related to peacekeeping, security- both traditional and non-traditional forms, international development and peace management.


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