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725 applications for return of Kashmiri militants from PoK

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NEW DELHI: Keen to avail last year's special surrender and rehabilitation policy, 725 Kashmiri families have approached the Jammu and Kashmir government to facilitate the homecoming of their relatives who crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) during 1989-2009 to embrace militancy.

Sources in the home ministry said a high-level committee, comprising representatives of the state government, ministry of home affairs, Army and others will scrutinize the applications and verify the antecedents of the militants who want to surrender and live a peaceful life.

"If everything goes well after the double screening exercise, we expect the first batch of militants to return home by June-end," a source said.

The high-level committee is expected to hold its meeting immediately after the ongoing panchayat polls in J&K. The special surrender and rehabilitation policy covers all people (and their dependents) who crossed over to PoK between 1989 and 2009 to embrace militancy and now want to return to lead a peaceful life.

Sources said these militants had given up arms long ago due to a change of heart and were willing to return to the state.

The scheme includes identification, screening, travel, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration of the militants willing to give up arms. It will be implemented by the state government with active support of the Centre.

The issue of return of Kashmiri youth from PoK shot to prominence in 2006 when a delegation of leaders from J&K, including chief minister Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, went to Pakistan. Several Kashmiris in PoK met them and urged them to facilitate their return, saying they were "homesick".