Thursday, Sep 18, 2003
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By Praveen Swami
Khurshid Parrey, eldest son of Kuka Parrey, at his house in Hajim, Baramulla district, on Wednesday. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
Mr. Parrey said he would work on three core issues of concern to hundreds of one-time terrorists who subsequently formed the State-backed militias. "Hundreds of our cadre have laid down their lives for India", he said, "but we have received only harassment and insults in return. We want proper rehabilitation for the families of those who have died, recruitment of those who fight on in the armed forces, and the withdrawal of politically-motivated criminal cases against our members."
Better known by his alias `Kuka Parrey', Mohammad Yusuf Parrey was instrumental in the decimation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and its over-ground support structure between 1994 and 1996. Charges of extortion and extra-judicial killings against his militia, the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, dogged this offensive. The Ikhwan and its political front, the Awami League, found itself in confrontation with both the National Conference and People's Democratic Party-led governments.
The Awami League cadre deny the allegations against them and say they are being sacrificed by the mainstream politicians to appease terrorist groups. "This Government is willing to release terrorists", Mr. Parrey argues, "but continues to hold our leaders on fabricated charges." Two senior Awami League leaders, Abdul Rashid Billa and Abdul Rashid Pir, are currently being detained under the Public Safety Act, a State-specific preventive detention law.
Mr. Parrey claims his father's assassination was itself the outcome of official hostility. In letters written in March 2001 and June 2002, the slain leader had pointed out that his security categorisation entitled him to four security officers, two look-out guards, static-duty guards at his home, and two escort vehicles. Instead, he received just two security officers. His requests for a new bullet-proof car to replace the road-worn model he was earlier granted were also denied. As a result, he was travelling in a non-bullet proof jeep on the day of his assassination.
Armed Ikhwan cadre say the State routinely delays payments due to those killed in action. Ghulam Rasool Parrey, the slain leader's elder brother, lost his son Manzoor in the course of a 1998 anti-terrorist operation. The Rs.120,000 compensation paid even to civilians killed by terrorists was released only a week ago. "Many of the families of our martyrs", he says, "are asked for bribes of up to Rs. 20,000".
Such stories are common. Bashir Ahmad Dar, the headman of Chak Ganastan village, was killed last year by terrorists because of his former Ikhwan links. He is now being denied compensation on the ground that he was involved in the murder of four policemen. "I don't believe he killed the policemen", says his wife Shamima Dar, "but even if he did, shouldn't his surrender and subsequent work for India condone his earlier crime?"
"We had several hundred Ikhwan members just a few years ago", says key militia member, Ghulam Rasool Bhat, a one-time Al-Jihad terrorist, "but poor pay and the State Government's policies have forced them to leave the fight against terrorism." Mr. Bhat had to evacuate his relatives from his village near Sopore after joining the Ikhwan. Until mid-2002, he survived on an Army salary of just Rs. 2000 a month. That has now been raised to Rs. 4,500, which, Mr. Bhat claims, is still well below what he earned as a terrorist."
Mr. Parrey expressed happiness about a new Army programme to recruit the Ikhwan cadre into new battalions, but said more needs to be done. "At the moment", he argues, "the message that is going out is that it just doesn't pay to support India."
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