BARAMULLA: Junaid Baghdadi, a native of Kupwara, went to the police in 2008 to seek a No Objection Certificate for his son, who had qualified the entrance test for the National Defence Academy (NDA). The NOC was refused. He returned home in silence. When he was asked about the certificate, he could not reply; he was battling a heart attack. “I survived, and my son went on to become an engineer, but I was mortified that day for being an ex-militant,” Baghdadi told Kashmir Reader.
Baghdadi said he had responded to the armed rebellion and picked up arms like many others in Kashmir, but after some years he distanced himself from the militancy and began living a normal life, raising his family.
“For former militants like us, the comeback, however, is daunting,” Baghdadi said. “We suffer, caught in limbo between our past and present.”
After he recovered from the heart attack, Baghdadi joined a collective for the welfare of former militants. This Monday, the ex-militants met at the office of Ex-Militants Welfare Association (EWA) in Baramulla town, as they do once in a while, and talked about their day-to-day problems.
“From simple NOCs to passports, to finding jobs and rehabilitation for families of slain militants, there are hundreds of problems faced by our kind,” former militant Ramzan Bhat of Lolab said.
Across Kashmir the association has made members of ex-militants and the families of militants killed in the past two decades. Baghdadi, the general secretary of the association, claims they have about 1,500 registered members from Kupwara, 1,100 from Bandipora, 950 from Budgam, 1,250 from Srinagar, 900 from Ganderbal, 900 from Pulwama, 650 from Shopian, 600 from Kulgam, 1,700 from Islamabad, and 1,800 from Baramulla.
In 2010, the state government led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah ordered a policy and procedure for return of former militants who had crossed over to Pakistan but had shunned militancy and wanted to return to Jammu and Kashmir. The rehabilitation policy was meant for only those militants who had crossed over to Pakistan between January 1, 1989, and December 31, 2009. The rehabilitation policy included their dependants. The ex-militants say this rehabilitation was not achieved.
According to the 11 core members of the association, ex-militants face difficulties in engaging with political parties, both mainstream and pro-freedom. “We require support and help with welfare and rehabilitation of former militants, so that they do not suffer socially,” Baghdadi says.
The core members said that resorting to arms in the early nineties was a ‘genuine’ reaction to the then polity of Kashmir. “We do not regret taking up arms. However, we now feel that only peaceful resolution through dialogue can address the core issue of Kashmir,” they said.
Other than demands related to release of former militants from jails and reinstatement of terminated government employees, the ex-militants associated with EWA also demand that they be made a party to the negotiations on the Kashmir issue.