Mehbooba Mufti’s government in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to extend its amnesty for first-time stone pelters by withdrawing cases against even those involved in last year’s violence triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death.
Officials said that cases registered against stone pelters between 2015 and 2017 were being currently reviewed for the purpose of drawing up a list of first-time offenders. Chief Minister Mehbooba had last month announced the withdrawal of cases against 4,000 youth involved in some 744 incidents of stone pelting between 2008 and 2014.
“The cases reviewed up to now were from 2008 to 2014. We are now reviewing cases from 2015 and 2017 and we will soon come up with a second list,” director general of state police SP Vaid said. Mehbooba’s announcement last month regarding the withdrawal of cases was meant to be a goodwill gesture towards disenchanted Kashmiri youth. New Delhi is understood to have pushed for such a measure to bolster efforts by central government-appointed special interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma in his efforts to kick-start a dialogue and restore peace in the state.
Thousands of locals – particularly youngsters – who had hit the streets and fought pitched battles with security forces in the wake of Wani’s killing in an encounter in July last year would benefit if the government extends the period of amnesty. Officials said the amnesty was part of the government’s initiative to provide a ‘healing touch’ to the strife-torn state.
“The review of cases against these youth was a major demand from various sections of the society in the state who would be heaving a sigh of relief after this decision,” Mehbooba said in a recent statement, describing the measure as a “ray of hope” for the young men and their families to rebuild their lives.
She had attempted to withdraw cases against first-time stone pelters soon after assuming office last year, but the initiative was derailed by the violent protests that erupted over Wani’s death. Cases against some 634 youth could only be withdrawn in that phase.
“There is a provision in the law where the prosecution has the right to approach the court on the basis of certain reasons to withdraw charges in a case, and the state will invoke that. The prosecution will file a formal application to the court seeking a withdrawal of the charges which the court has to accept,” state advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganai said.
Amnesty, however, has evoked cynicism among the stone pelters. “Many of the accused are not even stone pelters. They were falsely framed and arrested. It is all politics,” said one. Another said the government’s ‘healing touch’ will not end the violence. “Until a political solution to the Kashmir conflict is reached, stone pelting on security forces will not end,” he added.