The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday said the actual number of youths who had crossed over to other side of the Line of Control since 1989 was not known and sought the help of the government of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir for obtaining the figures so that the rehabilitation programme envisaged by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was carried forward.

Addressing a news conference here, Minister of State for Revenue and Tourism Nasir Aslam Wani said the youths who had crossed over to the other side had not gone on any legal document. “It is the initial stage of a process which the Chief Minister kick-started and it will need a comprehensive exercise to find out how many are there and who is keen to return to seek amnesty,” Mr. Wani said. He declined to offer any time-frame for the rehabilitation programme.

Seeking help from Muzaffarabad, Mr. Wani said, “We will expect people from the other side to respond and let us know how many people are there who have migrated in the last 20 years,” He asked political parties, including the Opposition PDP, to rise above party politics and support the process.

Referring to the policy, the Minister said this was a great move which would provide the youths an opportunity to come back into the national mainstream. He hailed the Union Home Ministry for supporting the State’s cause that envisaged amnesty and rehabilitation for Kashmiri youths who returned from PoK. “Even the Centre has accepted the Chief Minister’s idea of amnesty to Kashmiri youths who have crossed over to PoK and are desirous of coming back. The youths across the LoC are craving to return home without weapons and join the mainstream. We should give them an opportunity to come back and join us in ridding the State of the scourge of violence that has gripped us for more than two decades now,” the Minister said.

He said that as per reports, two-third of the population of border villages like Keran in Kupwara district has migrated to PoK after 1990 and there was a need to seriously think about their return and rehabilitation.