Kashmiris reject India’s militant rehab plan

India has tried similar rehabilitation programs in the past. (AP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Kashmiris reject India’s militant rehab plan

  • India’s rehabilitation policy will be “futile” unless it addresses the source of the problem: expert

NEW DELHI: An Indian military plan to end militancy in the region by resettling young Kashmiri fighters has been described as “meaningless” by both analysts and former fighters.
The rehabiliation program will fail unless the roots of unrest in the region — violence, alienation and betrayal — are addressed by New Delhi, they say.
India’s military commander in the Kashmir Valley, Lt. Gen. B.S. Raju, announced the rehabilitation program on Wednesday, saying advanced plans had been submitted to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Referring to the Kashmiri fighters as “young boys who need to be taken care of,” Raju said the policy “will help and give confidence to those who are opting to surrender.”
India has tried similar rehabilitation programs in the past, but some who took part have told Arab News they now regret their experience.
“They offered us jobs, some money, rehabilitation and training, but in the last 6 years I have received nothing,” former fighter Sanullah Dar, 44, said.
Dar  returned to Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan in 2014 when he was offered a place in rehabilitation scheme by the-then Kashmiri government. His Pakistani wife accompanied him.
“Even after 6 years my wife doesn’t have an Indian passport. My children are also denied passports. I was leading a peaceful life in Lahore, earning a living, doing some work. But here we are without hope.”
Dar left Kashmir in 1990 at the height of militant uprising in the valley, settled down in Lahore and married a Pakistani woman. After 24 years he decided to return to his homeland after the rehabilitation policy was announced.
Javed Ahmed, who returned from Karachi in 2007, also regrets his decision to respond to the Kashmir government’s call.
“There is no empathy or sympathy for us. No promise has been honored. My wife and I somehow survive eking out a living, but there are more that 400 families who are struggling to feed themselves,” Ahmed, who now works as bus driver, told Arab News.

FASTFACT

Former fighters say previous amnesty ‘left us with nothing.’

“My wife is still treated as a foreigner, she cannot have an Indian passport. Legally, a foreign wife should become a legal citizen of the husband’s country within four or five years, but my wife and several women are living like stateless persons.”
Ahmed’s wife, Saira, said she is unable to return to Pakistan because she has no documents.
“My father is sick, but I cannot visit him because I don’t have a passport.”
Ahmed is worried about the future of his four children.
“My younger children get angry when they see our humiliation, and it is because of this humiliation that many in Kashmir pick up guns,”
he said.
“I am worried that they might become rebels when they grow up. Can you stop them?“
A Kashmir expert, retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, told Arab News that India’s rehabilitation policy will be “futile” unless it addresses the source of the problem, which is “alienation, anger, hatred and a sense of betrayal.”
The issue was exacerbated by the decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, he said.
On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of India’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s autonomy. Amid a military lockdown thousands of local political leaders and activists were detained, some of whom remain under arrest.
“These militants are not criminals. They are coming out to express dissent and protest at the way they have been treated by India for the past 30 years,” Kak said.
In the past seven months at least 135 fighters have been killed in the region. The Indian military says that about 200 militants are still active in the Kashmir Valley.
“There is a monetary reward for killing militants, which is an incentive for extrajudicial killings, and also leads to fake encounters in which civilians are killed and branded as militants,” said Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human
rights activist.
“If the government really wants to show change of approach, it must stop financial rewards for killing militants. The rehabilitation policies have been a disaster.” 
Zaffar Choudhary, a Srinagar-based political analyst and editor of online news magazine The Dispatch, told Arab News: “Militancy is never a mechanical process where the isolation of a few elements can change the course of a project.
“Militancy is in the mind,” he said. “A few become more visible as militants when they pick guns. So you have to deal not just with the militants but also wider society. It is the society that needs rehabilitation through political outreach.”
Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Lt. Gen. B.S. Raju, who announced the rehabilitation policy, was unavailable for comment.
 

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UK science advisers warn public on COVID-19 rates

Updated 21 September 2020

UK science advisers warn public on COVID-19 rates

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson huddled with ministers over the weekend to discuss how the government will respond to the recent rise in cases
  • The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week

LONDON: Britain’s top medical adviser says the country has, in a “very bad sense,” turned a corner on COVID-19 infection rates, with figures suggesting there will be an exponential growth in the disease unless action is taken.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told the public on Monday that rates are going in the “wrong direction” amid expectations the government is preparing to announce new measures to control the pandemic.
“We have in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner,” after weeks of increasing infection rates.
Whitty said that if nothing is done, new infections will rise to 49,000 a day by mid-October. Hospitalizations are also doubling in seven to eight days — leading to more deaths.
There was also no indication that the virus had lessened in severity, he said. “We see no evidence that this is true.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson huddled with ministers over the weekend to discuss how the government will respond to the recent rise in cases, which has pushed infection rates to levels last seen in May. Later this week the government is expected to announce a slate of short-term restrictions that will act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease.
The government is hoping to keep that number from climbing back to the peak levels of early April, when more than 5,000 cases a day were being reported.
While death rates have remained relatively low so far, public health officials warn that deaths are likely to rise in coming weeks.
The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week, compared with a peak of 942 on April 10.
The government last week imposed tighter restrictions on communities in northeastern England, where the infection rate first began to rise. Bars and restaurants in those areas must now close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and people are prohibited from socializing with individuals from other households.
The rise in infection rates comes as lawmakers across the political spectrum criticize the government’s testing program. While government ministers tout the record numbers of tests being performed, there are widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles for tests and tests being voided because it is taking labs too long to process them.
An effective testing program is seen as essential to controlling the pandemic because it allows the government to track infections and inform people when they should self-isolate.