Once proud Kashmiri soldiers now waste away in Pakistan side of border
Kashmir has long been flashpoint for nuclear-armed nations
At one time, soldiers from Kashmir proudly defended their homeland against India. Now, with hostilities in that part of the world dying down - long a flashpoint between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, many Indian soldiers find themselves going to waste on the Pakistani side of the border.
Many Kashmiris who defended their land against India now find themselves disenfranchised, working or living below the prevailing standard on the Pakistani side of the border.
Kashmiri on the Indian side rose up in revolt in the Nineties. Pakistan seized the opportunity and supported the fighters by providing them with arms, training and refuge.
Hostilities over the region have waned in recent years, and many former fighters find themselves trapped on the Pakistan side of the border.
Social workers at refugee camps estimate about 6,000 former fighters are now living in Pakistan. Many, or an estimated 40 percent according to refugee groups have since started families and careers.
Those who had some money started businesses while others went to work for NGOs and private firms.
Critics of government policy say poverty experienced by former fighters often leads them back to work with radical groups like Jamat-e-Islami and the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front.
Many displaced Kashmiri soldiers blame Pakistan's change of heart towards them for their misery.
"Kashmir's freedom from India.
"The government does not openly talk about their policy towards these former militants, but the way the authorities deal with these men and their families is unusual," Abdul Manan, a professor at the University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir says.
"From education, health, job opportunities, to their citizen status, these ex-militants who gave up their arms two decades ago are suffering at the hands of the same state, that had once called upon them and trained them to fight," he says.
"Both governments of India and Pakistan... are responsible for this historical humanitarian abuse."
However - many other claim that the former fighters are victims of their past.
"These ex-militants are actually not easy to work with. They have had a background in militancy and I don't think they are ever able to release themselves from their militant mindsets," Mohsin Ali, a director of an NGO that supports child education in Kashmir says.
Scars aren't friendly
Many ex-fighters are highly visible on account of their scars or missing limbs.
The Pakistani government insists the former fighters are not discriminated against. According to Anjum Akhtar of the Kashmir General Administration department, "there are thousands of refugees who are living in Azad Kashmir and it is hard to identify which ones are ex-militants. We treat them equally."
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Kasmir, India, Pakistan, disenfranchisement
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