The Homecoming of a Militant

At the age of 10 Mohhamad Ashraf Jehara undertook an arduous journey that would change the course of his life. At the end of it he found himself in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir at an arms training camp. Having given up militancy and crossed back to India, Ashraf now finds himself languishing in a prison cell in Srinagar Central Jail. In today’s video Community Correspondent Sajad Rasool brings us his story, a story that has played out on numerous occasions with different people. The once peaceful movement for a free Kashmir had become increasingly militant by the late 1980s. Jehara joined the thousands who have crossed the border in the last 20 years. While there, they were trained to use guns, explosives and grenades. Of those who went to attend trainings, many gave up their arms soon after. They started new lives outside the camps. Some married, had children, others eked out a living with whatever work they could find. In 2010 the government of Jammu and Kashmir launched a policy geared towards rehabilitating militants who had crossed over to Pakistan Controlled Kashmir. It includes the monitoring, debriefing, identification and reintegration of the former rebels into a peaceful life. Former rebels are asked to send in applications asking for rehabilitation, which are then scrutinised by intelligence agencies. Once cleared, they can enter the state.  In its execution the plan has several flaws. The cases of people like Mohammad Ashraf Jehara and Liyaqat Ali Shah are examples of this. On entering India through Poonch, Ashraf and his wife were immediately arrested. While she was kept there, he was shifted to Srinagar. Even if the former militants reach their homes, the life that awaits them is a miserable one. “They have no passports or identity cards. Their children are often denied admission in schools because they have no proof of residence. What is worse is that they all live in the constant fear of being falsely charged. When I went to film for this story, Ashraf’s family and friends were very reluctant to come on camera. They feared that the police would come find them and make their lives harder”, says Sajad. “I grew up in the shadow of guns under constant military occupation. If the Kashmiri Government sets out a policy and gives people the chance to take up peaceful lives, then they should do everything in their power to facilitate this. Such arrests are not encouraging for others who want to come back home; they close the door on peace. It’s not surprising then that an anti-India sentiment continues to thrive”, says Sajad. …And the embers of the desire for national self-determination smoulder on.   Further Reading: BBC- The Caravan-   Also Watch: The Killing of Kashmir                    

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