For the first time, the Centre has agreed to formulate a general amnesty plan for the Kashmiri youth undergoing training in terrorist camps in Pak-occupied Kashmir (POK). The broader contours of the package to facilitate their return to their homes would be worked out in consultation with Jammu and Kashmir Government, highly placed government sources said here on Monday. .

Also, it formed part of a recommendation made by one of the five working groups, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address various dimensions of Kashmir problem. One of the groups, asked to suggest internal confidence building measures, had recommended safe passage for Kashmiri youth based in PoK.

The Centre’s move came in response to a demand raised by the State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday while speaking at the Chief Ministers’ conference on Internal Security here. ``We have agreed in principle to facilitate the return of youth desirous to come back and lead a normal life,’’ Home Secretary G. K. Pillai said.

While speaking at the conference on Sunday, the Chief Minister had sought the Centre’s help in formulating a new surrender policy for youths in PoK who were willing to return to the mainstream but do not want to come back with weapons. Mr. Abdullah said to ``encourage more militants to return to the State and manage their transition to civilian life, a new surrender and rehabilitation policy of militants is under active consideration of my government.’’

Successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have been urging the Centre to take such an initiative. The Congress-PDP government, headed by former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Saeed, had strongly favoured giving a safe passage to the ``misguided’’ youth to return to their homes but had failed to convince the Centre.

Highly placed sources in the Home Ministry said the process to frame guidelines has already been started. The answer to some of the contentious issues such as how to differentiate between those having committed heinous crimes and the ones with clean record would be worked out in consultations with the State Government and the security agencies, the sources said.

Significantly, the Centre is looking at the issue as an ``important political demand’’ raised by Omar Abdullah that could have far reaching impact on the psyche of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. ``Certainly, it is a political demand and if the persons holed up in training camps wish to come back, they can be permitted,’’ the sources added.

It is likely that the Centre would work out comprehensive package for those choosing to return to their homeland. Apart from providing safe package, it is also likely to include incentives for their rehabilitation. ``All these aspects will be properly addressed in a wholesome manner,’’ the sources said.

About four years ago, the Army had taken a piece-meal initiative and till June 2007, nearly 170 had surrendered on the Line of Control before this scheme had to be abandoned. One of the surrendered militant was found to be involved in an alleged assassination attempt on the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad following which the Home Ministry ordered a halt to the Army’s initiative.

According to official estimates there are about 800 Kashmiri natives holed up in PoK training camps whereas the unofficial figures put the number anywhere between 1500 and 2000. Apart from those having gone there for armed training, there are hundreds of persons who had crossed the LOC for economic and social reasons. These categories are also likely to figure while dealing with the general amnesty issue, the source said.

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