The Jammu and Kashmir government is thinking of setting free more than 700 stone-pelters arrested during the past two months in the Kashmir Valley, as a "goodwill gesture" on the eve of Eid next month, officials said on Saturday.
The release of the stone-pelters and their reunion with their families would help calm tempers in the Valley, where voices calling for restraint and understanding the psyche of the stone throwers have gained momentum.
"If we could release militants on such occasions (Muslim festivals as also India's Independence Day and Republic Day), there should be no harm in setting free the stone-pelters," an official, who is behind the move, told IANS.
The idea has been "well received" by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who "is against incarceration of teenagers who in a swirl of anger might have taken to the streets and thrown stones", the official said.
The parents of the arrested youth have also been pleading with the authorities to set them free with some of them even noting that if the chief minister could pardon a policeman who threw a shoe at him during the Independence Day function on Aug 15, why can't he forgive the youth who acted due to anger and frustration of the times.
"They (the jailed youth) are our own people and we cannot treat them like criminals for ever," the official said.
Id-ul-Fitr may fall on Sep 10 or 11, depending on the sighting of the moon.
Most of the arrested stone-pelters who are in their teens were arrested from Srinagar, Baramulla, Bijbehra and Sopore areas of the Valley, which saw heavy stone-pelting in the past 10 weeks. The motives attributed range from anger against misgovernance, unemployment, sentiment for 'azadi' (freedom), to monetary benefits and instigation.
While the government had been maintaining that the phenomenon of stone throwing started with instigation by Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan, the separatists and their sympathisers have called it a "manifestation of resistance against the Indian rule in Kashmir" and also a tool of self-defence against the firing of bullets by security forces.
As many as 64 people, including children aged eight and nine, have been killed and hundreds of others wounded in the clashes that picked up after the death of a 17-year-old Tufail Mattoo in Rajouri Kadal area of Srinagar June 11.