Govt may offer amnesty to Kashmir stone-pelters, withdraw some cases
The government is likely to announce an amnesty scheme for stone pelters in the Kashmir Valley and withdraw cases against first-time offenders, senior government officials said on Monday.
The scheme, discussed between officials from the state and the Centre, is likely to be announced as a show of good faith ahead of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma’s second visit to the state later this month. Sharma, a former director of the Intelligence Bureau, was appointed as the Centre’s representative on October 23 to hold a “sustained dialogue” with all stakeholders.
“There are thousands of youth facing FIRs and we will be withdrawing cases against first-time stone pelters as a goodwill gesture,’’ a home ministry official told Hindustan Times.
When contacted, Sharma said that the scheme was being worked on, without revealing further details, and emphasised that he would stay focussed on the youth. “I am concerned about the youth because they are the ones who matter. I will be focussing on how to change their mindset because they are the ones who are angry,” he said.
The Valley went through an intense phase of stone pelting after the killing of Hizbul Mujahidin militant commander Burhan Wani last July. Protests swept through Kashmir for four months. Over a hundred youth were killed and several blinded by pellet guns, which became the symbol of violence against civilian demonstrators.
The government is hopeful that the withdrawal of cases against those who have only one case of stone pelting against them will help soothe nerves. “The confidence-building measure is aimed at the youth who had paralysed the state last year,’’ the home ministry official said.
The amnesty scheme, the government hopes, will increase the political space for chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is hemmed in by protests that have swept south Kashmir, her party’s traditional stronghold. The chief minister has been under pressure for being in an alliance with the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
The amnesty scheme aimed at stone pelters, officials revealed, has been discussed with multiple stakeholders in the state and the Centre. Sources said the paramilitary and the army have been taken on board.
The scheme is part of a larger attempt by the government to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision by the state police to not register a case against footballer-cum-militant Majid Khan, who returned
from the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba after an emotional appeal by his mother, is also being
seen as a humanitarian gesture.
In a similar vein, home minister Rajnath Singh asked the state government to shift juveniles from jails to remand homes and view their cases sympathetically.
It is not clear if the scheme will change the position adopted by the Kashmiri separatists, who have said they will not be a part of the sustained dialogue. They had refused to meet the interlocutor on his first visit earlier this month.
“Dineshwar Sharma’s appointment as interlocutor for J&K is nothing more than a tactic to buy time adopted under international pressures and regional compulsions,” the separatists had said in a statement soon after his appointment.