No jobs, no benefits, say former militants

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Jammu and Kashmir:  They shunned violence for what the government promised would be a better life. Now, they're up in arms against the government's surrender policy. Surrendered militants in Jammu and Kashmir are accusing the government of failing to provide jobs and stipend it had promised under the rehabilitation policy.

Six years ago, Bashir Ahmed, a former Harkat-ul-jehadi Islami militant surrendered with two AK-47 rifles.

The militant group soon took revenge, killing his mother and brother. Bashir now claims the government has done nothing for them.

"We were told that justice will be done with us but after surrendering neither quarter nor any money was given to us nor were we given jobs," said Bashir Ahmad.

Shabir Ahmed, who was with the Hizbul Mujahideen, surrendered five years ago. Soon, militants killed his family and burnt his house. He is still waiting for surrender benefits. He said: "They haven't given us any money, the government had promised to give us a job, but hasn't done that so far"

According to the surrender policy announced in 2003, each militant that lays down arms would get a monthly stipend of Rs 2000 for three years. Also, a fixed deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh would be paid after three years, subject to good behaviour.

The target beneficiaries claim that is only on paper. The government disagrees. "The government will fulfill the commitment made with them, particularly with those who have joined the mainstream; the government has to verify what activities they do after they surrender," said Raman Bhalla, Minister Relief and Revenue.

The surrendered militants say their dreams are shattered and they have nowhere left to go. The onus is clearly on the government now to take steps to restore their confidence, so that more people would want to surrender.

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