After the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it was perceived that government was going to take some stern actions against the secessionist elements, and it was also somewhat apparent with the killing of a number of militants in the Kashmir valley. Simultaneous action by agencies like the National Investigative Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) for terror funding was initiated as a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to curb militancy. During the press conference after Pulwama incident, Lt Gen. Dhillon, GOC 15 Corps said: “anyone who picks up the gun will be eliminated, unless he surrenders. There is a very good surrender policy being initiated by the government so that they can join the mainstream.”

The statement was an indication of a prospective option which is under consideration as a new “reintegration policy” the draft is supervised by the Governor himself to encourage the militants belonging to the State to give up arms. The draft policy is now at the pre-State Administrative Council (SAC) stage which is under the Governor and is assisted by four advisors and Chief Secretary and further it is subject to clearance by the State Home Department. As per the draft policy, the new initiative focuses on the need for rehabilitation through a “two-pronged approach” – reformative measures and opportunities to earn livelihood.

Provision has been made in the draft for a monthly stipend of Rs. 6000 for militant who surrenders with an aim of joining the mainstream. However, the policy debars such militants who are involved in “heinous crimes”. The main philosophy of this provision is to bring back the non-hardcore militants and give them the opportunity to join the mainstream and bring those to justice who are involved in heinous crimes like the killing of innocent people and security forces. The government believes that the policy will have a “ripple effect”; the successful rehabilitation of one militant will motivate other militants to do the same. Although this is not the first time that such policy initiative has been taken, the proposed policy is more or less a revised version of earlier policies but with a renewed focus on socio-economic reintegration.

Earlier in 2010, also the aim of the surrender policy was to make possible the return of ex-militants who crossed over to Pakistan between January 1989 and December 2009 for training but later gave up insurgent activities. In addition to it, as per 2004 rehabilitation policy, it strived to provide “facility to those terrorists who undergo a change of heart and eschew the path of violence and who also accept the integrity of India and Indian Constitution to encourage them to join the mainstream and lead a normal life”.

Under the 2004 policy, there was direction for establishing vocational training centers for those who wished to pursue a living of their own. More importantly, there was also direction for establishing counseling centers. But main problem of this policy was its effective implementation, the counseling centers never came up on the ground and no one was subject to counseling as such. The present policy must reflect lessons from the past experiences – both in the context of policy formulation and implementation. The policy may look very promising on the paper but it requires the administrative will and physical infrastructure to make it achieve the desired results. The policy must also address the psychological stigma attached to the phenomenon of surrender, which sometimes appears as a sense of defeat rather than a change of heart.

The main reason for the failure of earlier surrender policies was the lack of coordination between the administration and the local police force. The lack of physical infrastructure for the implementation of policy is another reason for past failures. The rehabilitation policy is one of the most important components of Winning Hearts and Minds (WHAM) in insurgency-affected areas; it gives a strong foundation for the initiation of a peaceful political process. The government must also carry out the impact analysis of earlier surrender policies and identify the grey areas which need to be addressed in the new policy.

The new policy should also be subject to social audits, so that the policy can be updated in a timely manner via administrative orders. The State of Jammu and Kashmir needs to revive its industrial institutions so that it can provide livelihood to surrendered militants. The establishment of food processing units will offer a better price to the local producers and it will also work as employment multiplier for local youths who may otherwise be quite susceptible to separatist propaganda. The new policy cannot bring sea change overnight neither it should be expected as such. It will take concerted and persistent efforts of various stakeholders like NGOs, administration, police, political establishment and more importantly, the participation of local people. Surrender is an incidental occurrence but it requires a stable and constant rehabilitation process for making it a viable option for those who wish to join the mainstream and live a peaceful, prosperous and secure life.

Image: CIA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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