Mehbooba Mufti announces amnesty to first-time stone pelters
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has announced launch of the Centre’s amnesty for first-time “offenders of stone pelting”, a move that could see police drop charges against an estimated 4,500 people, most of them youngsters.
Mufti’s announcement came through a series of late-night tweets on Wednesday and is part of the Centre’s attempts to soothe frayed nerves in the Valley which saw months-long street violence last year.
“It gives me immense satisfaction to restart the process of withdrawing FIRs against first time offenders of stone pelting. My government had initiated the process in May, 2016 but it was unfortunately stalled due to the unrest later that year,” Mufti said.
Sources said, about 11,000 FIRs were registered over stone-pelting incidents following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani in July last year, the worst and most prolonged agitation in the valley for over a decade.
More than a 100 people – most of them civilians – were killed in police retaliation to stone-pelters. Hundreds of others were injured.
Police said they were looking into the cases to ascertain who can be let off.
“Some reports say 4,500 boys are first-time offenders but we are examining the cases to arrive at the number,” said SP Vaid, the state director general of police.
Vaid said the process will start when “the government order comes”.
Mehbooba said the government’s initiative is based on recommendations by the Centre’s interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief tasked with starting a peace process in the Kashmir.
The scheme has been announced as a show of “good faith ahead of Sharma’s second visit to the state later this month”.
Sharma told Hindustan Times that he made the recommendations after meeting a cross section of the people in the state.
“...It is for the people to say whether the move is good or not,” Sharma said to a question whether the scheme will help him gain trust of the Kashmiris.
Mufti praised Sharma, saying he has started on a “positive note”.
“This confidence-building measure reaffirms the Central government’s commitment towards changing the narrative in J&K & creating a re-conciliatory atmosphere for sustained dialogue,” Mufti said in another tweet.
The initiative is a ray of hope for these young boys and their families, she said, adding that it will “provide them an opportunity to rebuild their lives”.
The opposition National Conference, however, said the initiative shoulds have been taken by the state government.
“Centre’s big amnesty push”! Looks like Mehbooba Mufti’s only job is to take instructions from the Central Govt. This should have been a State Govt decision,” the party’s working president Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.
The Centre is also hopeful that the amnesty scheme will increase the political space for 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 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.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh too had earlier asked the state government to shift juveniles from jails to remand homes and view their cases sympathetically.