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”Mehbooba Mufti government had set on a process of review of cases against youth from 2008 to 2014 and in the first instance 104 cases involving 634 youth were withdrawn within two months of her assuming power. The process, unfortunately, got disrupted due to the unrest of 2016. With this, the total number of cases withdrawn so far on the directions of the Chief Minister has gone to 848 and the persons benefitting out of these withdrawals stand at 4957,”


Asem Mohiuddin

As the J&K governments decision to give amnesty to first time offenders in consultation with centre has began, the Peoples Democratic Party is terming this decision as continuation of its healing touch policy. From past three years, the PDP BJP government was under pressure from various quarters for failing to exhort its political writ on the ground. After Centre government asked state government to withdraw cases of first time offenders, the J&K government lost no time and began the process to withdraw cases of people across the state, especially in Valley.

Though the PDP is claiming the credit of this amnesty and within few weeks, officials said that around 4327 youths involved in cases will get benefited from this amnesty. Only after few days, the scheme was announced, J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti approved the withdrawal of cases against 4327 youth involved in 744 cases of law and order nature.

The decision was taken on the recommendations of a high powered committee headed by J&K Director General of Police, S P Vaid. The committee submitted its report to the chief minister. After centre asked J&K government to withdraw these cases, the chief minister had constituted a high level team to review these cases on the district level.

According to the PDP leadership the amnesty scheme is continuation of the process that party had initiated after taking over the reins of power in the state, despite hurdles being created by none other than its own coalition partner Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). 

”Mehbooba Mufti government had set on a process of review of cases against youth from 2008 to 2014 and in the first instance 104 cases involving 634 youth were withdrawn within two months of her assuming power. The process, unfortunately, got disrupted due to the unrest of 2016. With this, the total number of cases withdrawn so far on the directions of the Chief Minister has gone to 848 and the persons benefitting out of these withdrawals stand at 4957,” official spokesman to J&K chief minister said in a communiqué released to the press soon after the amnesty was announced.

The spokesman further said that the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti recently had also directed reviewing of cases from 2015-2017 (till date) and decision on the same would be taken on the receipt of report by the high powered committee. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti described this decision as a ray of hope for the young boys and their families and she termed it as an opportunity for them to rebuild their lives.

Mehbooba Mufti said the decision would help in creating a positive and conciliatory atmosphere in the State where the youth would be able to build their lives in a much more constructive and positive way.

The decision or amnesty to youth comes in the backdrop of the visit of Centre’s newly appointed interlocutor- Dineshwar Sharma, former IB Director who met several delegations and leaders of the mainstream political parties during his visit to Kashmir. During his meetings with several groups Sharma was told by delegations that if centre wants to restore peace and create some sort of confidence among the people in Kashmir then they need to take steps that will send positive vibes in the Valley by taking certain confidence building measures or CBM’s. After Sharma concluded his first visit, he conveyed to centre government that cases of first time offenders needs to be withdrawn and the Centre obliged his demand. Although J&K government had also been pursuing this case with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

On the amnesty not only opposition, but separatist leaders have also raised apprehensions over the initiative for the Kashmiri youth. Hurriyat chairman (Moderate), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed this as a political gimmick by the state and centre government.

Speaking at a big gathering at Jamia Masjid on Friday, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that if Centre is sincere they should release all the political prisoners who are serving detentions at several jails within and outside state. Mirwaiz mocking at the decision of amnesty said that people who being released by courts are again arrested and fabricated cases are slapped on them.

“The day amnesty was announced by centre and state governments, the police slapped Public Safety Act on a youth who was physically challenged. This shows the sincerity of the government.’’ Mirwaiz said that centre is taking every step to push people of Kashmir towards the wall and try to break the resolve of leaders and people. “We will never succumb to these tactics and will fight for our rights,’’ he said adding that centre is using National Investigative Agency (NIA) to scare the people and the leadership of Kashmir. 

After the amnesty though the PDP is trying to score some political points, however, it is not turning easy for the party that is under pressure since it formed government with the BJP in the state. Even after this amnesty several BJP leaders even some within the state have also raised concern over this amnesty to the stone pelters. Some leaders have already cautioned the PDP that cases of political prisoners shouldn’t be withdrawn otherwise they will face the heat. Unlike past, this time it seems, the PDP government is enjoying full support from the Centre especially Home Ministry. And the PDP will now try to use this as an opportunity to strengthen its position that has seen considerable erosion in the past three years, especially in south Kashmir where PDP enjoyed clout over its opponents and will also use this amnesty to bring some sort of normalcy in the situation.

In Kashmir, however, nothing can be predicted especially when encounters and killings are taking place on a daily basis, especially after Army and Police launched operation All Out against the militants. Since January more than 200 militants were killed in various encounters and many of those are local youths who had joined militancy after the killing of Hizb commander, Burhan Wani. The forces managed to kill even some top commanders of various outfit. This is the highest militant causality figure since 2010 when 266 militants were killed. Even what is creating problem for the security agencies is that still youths are joining militant ranks and the trend to take arms that began with the killing of Hizb commander, Burhan Wani is still continuing.

Under these circumstances, even a small incident could trigger a big problem for the state government. Recently, when the J&K government was reviewing the cases of first time offenders, four Kashmiris who were detained at Delhi’s Tihar jail were thrashed and severely beaten among them was Shahid Yusuf son of Hizbul Mujahideen, Chief Syed Salahudin. The prisoners were thrashed inside jail without any provocation. Shahid was arrested by the NIA and then sent to Tihar.

This incident created uneasiness among the locals, especially those lodged in different jails within and outside state. J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti also expressed concern over these reports and spoke to the Union Home secretary Rajiv Gauba and asked him to intervene in the matter. ‘’The Union Home Secretary assured the Chief Minister of a thorough probe into the incident and punishing the culprits for having violated the jail manual,’’ J&K government spokesman said soon after the incident took place.

Separatist leadership also appealed international human rights bodies to take note of the torture of Kashmiri inmates inside Tihar jail. ‘’Physical torture of Kashmiri inmates in Tihar jail, is clear violation of fundamental, human and legal rights of prisoners who have been subjected to severe beating by jail authorities.

We appeal @ UNHumanRights,@amnesty@ICRC to take strong note& intervene in this matter,’’ tweeted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

These types of incidents could always undermine the steps taken by the government to restore confidence. Though Centre government on the court directions took serious note of the beating of Kashmiri inmates, however, these incidents will never go down well within the masses, especially when things are already fragile.

From past several months’ state government along with centre has been trying to bring situation in the Valley under control and are trying to use appointment of interlocutor as an opportunity to start dialogue, however, separatist leadership has so far stayed away from the interlocutor and are not in a mood to give audience to him. Interlocutor Sharma and the PDP leadership is hopeful that steps and initiatives will finally lead towards full fledged dialogue in which all the stake holders will also participate. “These are baby steps and these baby steps will lead towards big things,’’ said a senior PDP leader.

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