Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Former militants struggle to rebuild upon return to Kashmir

By Jason Burke  /  The Guardian, SHOPIAN, India

However, those who have returned under the official scheme do not find life easy. Places in schools are hard to come by and government promises of vocational training are unfulfilled. Life is toughest for the wives of returnees who, with relations between India and Pakistan still poor, are unable to go back to see families and friends in Pakistan.

“It is a kind of hell I am living now,” said Farhat, 33, who married a former militant codenamed “Asgar” 15 years ago and came back with him to his native village in the hills of north Kashmir earlier this year.

The stunning view from their new home across orchards to the shimmering expanse of Wular Lake is no compensation for her previous life.

“We had a house, land, work, schools, everything over there. Here we have nothing. We made a terrible mistake. We have tried to go back, but cannot,” Farhat said.

Her 13-year-old son, Hamza, is now angry, moody and sometimes violent.

In Degoom, Dar, too, says he regrets his decision.

“My wife is so unhappy,” he said. “No one should come back until there is freedom here.”

Abdullah has suggested establishing some kind of peace and reconciliation commission for Kashmir.

“Ultimately we want to heal wounds. We want to be able to answer questions,” he said. “A lot of people have said that [a commission] is a post-conflict measure. My question is: what sort of benchmarks for violence do you want to set?”

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