The ‘Nowhere’ People

“If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

They are the 'nowhere' people- young boys, many in their teens, who beguiled by the romantic notion of becoming 'rebels,' crossed the LoC many years ago to enroll as 'mujahideens' and help Kashmir attain 'azadi' through the force of arms. 

While many did achieve their dreams, a large number of them could not become 'mujahids' for various reasons. 

Being of no use to those promoting the armed resurrection in Kashmir, these boys were left to fend for themselves. Stranded in a foreign land which they were given to believe was their own, these disillusioned and dejected people eked out a miserable existence by doing odd and lowly paid jobs. Not accepted in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) and branded 'militants' by the J&K government, they were forced to a life of suffering all because of a spontaneous act of indiscretion, which is not uncommon amongst the youth worldwide.

So, when the J&K government announced the 'rehabilitation policy' for all those youth who had crossed over to PaK between 1989 to 2010 for arms training, but had not indulged in any militant activity and were ready to return, surrender and settle as normal citizens, the mood was upbeat. While the parents and relatives of these people were overjoyed, the 'nowhere' people were greatly relieved at the prospect of returning home and resuming their normal lives. Soon, the authorities were deluged by a sea of applications and everyone anxiously awaited the return of the prodigals.

However, while the overwhelming response to the rehabilitation policy brought smiles to the mandarins in New Delhi and Srinagar, it became a major embarrassment for Islamabad and the Kashmiri militant outfits based in PaK. It was therefore felt that while New Delhi would go out of its way to capitalise on the astounding success of this policy, Islamabad would not play ball and instead use all available means to prevent the 'nowhere' people from leaving PaK.

However, besides showing its indifference (which is understandable), there is no evidence to suggest that Islamabad has tried to prevent the 'nowhere' people from returning. But a completely unexpected cropper came from the then Home Minister P Chidambaram, who maintained that there were "practical issues" which had to be resolved before implementing J&K government's rehabilitation policy.

No efforts were made to elaborate as to what these "practical issues" were and no progress on resolving the same appear to have been taken as this policy remains in a vegetative state even now. And so, the 'rehabilitation' policy is the latest entry in the ever burgeoning list of unfulfilled promises

made by the state government. The result? 117 persons who have returned from Pakistan via Nepal and other routes since the announcement of this policy cannot apply for ration cards and their children are not being admitted in government schools. There are no schemes to either provide these 'returnees' with training in skills through which they can earn their livelihood or some financial assistance for their initial sustenance. In short, they are now 'nowhere' people in their own land!

Since 'rehabilitation' policy for militants who have eschewed violence has already been instituted in Punjab and the North East, reluctance to do so in J&K is inexplicable. And that the 'returnees' should have to protest by going on hunger strike is a matter of shame for a government that has made a promise which it has not kept.

These people have a genuine cause for complaint- they returned because they were invited back by the state government through the announcement of the rehabilitation policy.

It needs to be remembered that many of the 'returnees' have spent a fortune (in some cases their entire savings) for obtaining false travel documents to reach home. It also needs to be remembered that they have incurred the wrath of the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallaudin who has himself "put a curse for one thousand times on those who return to Kashmir in a way they have to surrender before and seek forgiveness from the enemy and go behind bars." Lastly and most importantly, it needs to be remembered that they are

but our own people who were misled and have already suffered enough for their mistakes.

TAILPIECE: The Press Trust of India

(PTI) release of 01 October 2012 relates to an interesting case in the Bombay High Court. Siraj Khan, a resident of Manshera in PaK has claimed that he had accidentally entered Indian territory when he was nine years old. He now wants to return but when he approached the state CID, a case was registered against him under the Passports Act for entering the country without valid passport. So he petitioned the Bombay High Court to direct the Maharashtra government to deport him to PaK.

However, the Maharashtra government has now informed the court that it had withdrawn the case registered against Khan as it considers PaK a part of India and hence Khan is an Indian citizen. So, the Bombay High Court has asked Siraj Khan to clarify whether he is a citizen of India or Pakistan. (The aim of mentioning this case is to highlight the quirk of fatesthe 'nowhere' people belong to Kashmir but are not being treated as Indian citizens while Siraj Khan who belongs to PaK has been officially recogonised by a state government as an Indian citizen. But then, such things are not surprising since, as someone had once remarked- "Anything and everything is possible in India!"

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