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Govt Abandons Former Kashmir Militants

SRINAGAR, India, Sep 16 2012 (IPS) - Rashid was 12 years old when he picked up a gun and received armed training in Pakistan. He was caught by the Indian forces in 1992 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Five years later when he wished to return to a normal life, everyone turned away from him.

His parents refused to support him, and for a long time no girl agreed to marry Rashid, who is now 40. For relatives, he was an outcast who had spent two years in jail, and for state authorities a militant who could not be given a job.

“I have struggled for years after I was released from prison. Life of militants is hell after they give up guns,” Rashid told IPS.

Rashid served his sentence in several prisons, including Srinagar’s central jail. Prison was the most dreadful phase of his life, he said. Torture, beating and interrogation, together with lack of recreation, rehabilitation and even medical facilities turned life into a nightmare.

“Our food would contain husk and sandy stones. We had no recreational facilities like sports, counseling or anything that could keep us busy.” Inmates, he said, would spend time talking or offering prayers.

After release, things took a bad turn in another way, he said.

“There was no job, no financial security to lead a good life. The state government has been repeatedly promising jobs and compensation to ex-militants in Kashmir. But no results could be seen on the ground.”

It was not just unemployment that Rashid had to fight; social stigma fenced him from a good life.

“I couldn’t marry till I was almost 40. No one was ready to marry their daughter to an ex-militant, the tag makes you alien in our society.”

Rashid was forced into manual labour which is his means of earning now.

Rashid’s associate Iqbal was driven to unemployment due to his militant background, which even brought his marriage to breakup.

“I was not able to support my children and wife. My wife grew sick and threatened to divorce me. We reached the stage of separation,” said Iqbal, 45.

Iqbal was imprisoned in 1998 and released after eight years.

“Even after giving up guns, we are eyed with suspicion by people and authorities. Whenever any untoward incident takes place in our areas, we are called for questions first,” Iqbal told IPS.

Iqbal says normal life is impossible for ex-militants because neither the government nor people help in overcoming the trauma they face.

“There is no rehabilitation, no job prospect -we are left in the lurch.”

Forty-year-old Ibrahim was jailed for 15 years. After release he not only lost his family but his normal state of mind.

“He lives alone despite a wife and son, survives on medicines and fighting an insane mental state. There is no caretaker, no family, no money, no job for him,” said Masood, Ibrahim’s cousin.

Ibrahim developed many ailments in jail, he said. “But it was the death of his father and alienation from his brothers that drove Ibrahim to an insane mental state. The government never came to rehabilitate him. He is left to die.”

Experts point to the need for rehabilitation measures such as vocational training within prisons, counseling, education and recreation.

“The behaviour and inclination of the prisoner has to be assessed and accordingly he has to be rehabilitated to keep him away from crime. But such things are completely missing in our prisons,” Prof A.G.Madhosh, educationist and psychologist told IPS.

Madhosh, former head of faculty of education at the University of Kashmir, stressed the need for job avenues for former militants.

“We don’t have to push them towards wrong but pull them away from delinquency. Without proper rehabilitation they suffer emotionally, psychologically, financially and socially,” Madhosh told IPS.

Sociologists say former militants are treated like outcasts in society.

“Thousands of youth on both sides of Kashmir suffer as they are denounced by the government, relatives, family, friends – everyone. They are the worst sufferers of the conflict,” sociologist at the University of Kashmir, Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla told IPS.

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