Plundered fate of a well meaning policy


Whatever be the eventuality of the probe by National Investigating Agency(NIA) in the case of Liyaqat Shah, at least one thing is clear – the fragility of the much touted rehabilitation policy announced by Jammu and Kashmir government almost two years back. Last year, the state government began boasting of impressive number of received applications and also made public that hundreds had availed of the benefits of the policy, some returning via the Line of Control, others via Nepal. Several news reports added to the informed opinion about how beneficiaries of the policy approach the government, using official channels, wait for their screening report and green signal, cross the borders via LoC or take the longer Nepal route on Pakistani passport and then destroy the Pakistani papers before they enter India. The Jammu and Kashmir personnel go to receive them at the Indo-Nepal borders. 

While the technical legalities of such crossings may indeed be an issue of academic debate, it is unlikely that Indian and Pakistanis agencies are not kept in the loop even as there is no official agreement inked between Islamabad and New Delhi over the policy. It would be humanely impossible for the beneficiaries to cross the border without the tacit support of those manning the borders, or without involvement of other officials facilitating their trans-border movement. The absence of a formal agreement between the two countries, however, ends up making the fate of the beneficiaries of this scheme unpredictable. Their vulnerability to vested interests on either side is enhanced owing to the unofficial nature of the scheme. The government response to a query in the state legislative assembly some weeks ago infact maintained that officially nobody had returned under the rehabilitation and amnesty package for the youth who went across the borders after 1989 and are willing to return, resettle and lead normal lives. 

But just how normal could the lives be when the government isn’t even willing to officially declare the return of those benefiting from the amnesty package. And just how much is that benefit? Those who have returned, many with their new wives and children complain of various things – constant harassment by the police and security agencies, the inability and ticklish problems of sending their children to school, or getting employment. At least, in one case, the very citizenship of the returning family stands challenged. The fate of those who return hangs by a thread. Their plight apparently is no different from the surrendered ultras, forcibly co-opted into working for security agencies or harassed for their refusal to do so. Recent history is testimony to how an unspecified counter insurgency policy paved way for the dehumanized method of pitting people against their own people by arming them and assigning for them the dirtiest of roles of unleashing terror among their own people and fully backing their reign of repression. What followed was a phenomenal rise in human rights abuse, indiscipline, confusion, trend of double agents as well as brutalization and dehumanization of the society. 

So who was Liyaqat Shah? Was he a fidayeen who decided to walk out of Nepal border with his wife and daughter to blow himself up in Delhi? Was he just a man fed up of militant groups and socio-political atmosphere across the borders to return? Jammu and Kashmir government had him in its list of returnees and was aware of his return on the exact day and time. Is it so unsure of its own designed policy and mechanism that instead of taking a stand and contesting the claims of Delhi police based on what appears to be a frivolous story, it decided to hand over the case to NIA? 

The NIA is not an independent body. It is a central organization, created in the aftermath of Mumbai 26/11 attacks, created to fulfill the need for having a centralised authority to check terrorism across the country. Ever since, cracking the 26/11 case, Samjhauta blast and Mecca blast are some of their listed achievements, much to the disgust of the Hindu right wing that stands nailed in some of these cases, even though the real headway into their role was made much before by ATS Maharashtra in Nanded and Malegaon blasts. But such a performance does not guarantee an unpartisan credibility. When it comes to the question of Kashmir and Kashmiris, the most credible of central or quasi-autonomous agencies and bodies are known to come with their bias. Incidentally, the performance of the NIA so far has been a political brownie point for the ruling UPA government. That, the retiring chief of NIA is now being gifted by the government with the membership of National Human Rights Commission he does not qualify for, further adds to the doubts about the credibility of NIA. In the middle of all this dramatics lies the plundered fate of a well meaning policy and the fate of the people who could have benefitted from it. Liyaqat Shah is just a case in point.