On the occasion of Republic Day, J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti and Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh gave strong hints that after general amnesty to the first time offenders or those having cases of stone pelting in various police stations, the state government in agreement with the centre is now contemplating to grant amnesty to those who have two or more cases registered against them and also considering slew of measures that will play a pivotal role in bringing peace in Kashmir.
J&K Chief Minister, replying to a question in the Upper House in the ongoing assembly session being conducted in winter capital Jammu said: “The government is reviewing the cases of second-time offenders involved in stone-throwing protests.” The government had earlier ordered withdrawal of cases against those who stoned security forces for the first time.
She said the first-time offenders/stone throwers who had been granted amnesty were being watched for their behaviour and parental participation. She said the results, if positive, would make the government consider amnesty for second-time offenders too.
Mufti stated this while replying to a query by PDP MLC Firdous Ahmed Tak who sought information on offenders/stone throwers against whom cases were registered for raising slogans and taking out processions in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.
Also Home Minister, Rajnath Singh dropped similar hints and measures and announced fresh measures to be taken by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to restore normalcy and peace in the state.
Rajnath Singh said the Ministry of Home Affairs has given its approval to the state government to use an amnesty scheme that it announced on November 23 last year to give relief to 3,685 students and youth who were apprehended for participating in incidents of stone pelting against security forces.
He also said this humanitarian step is aimed at giving students and youth another chance to rebuild their lives and careers without being under any kind of stress of being declared criminals.
The state government, Singh said has been advised to appoint a high-level committee to review the remaining cases of stone pelting.
This committee would be headed by a senior police officer.
“The MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) is of the view that stone pelting cases of a non-grievous nature against the students/youth should be closed/withdrawn so that they get a chance to focus on their studies and pursue their careers without any psychological pressure,” a statement issued from his office of MHA read.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has also been advised to formulate a new surrender and rehabilitation policy that will ensure economic rehabilitation and provide suitable training to the youth to run their own businesses, return to the mainstream and lead a dignified life.
After J&K government gave amnesty to youths and after the amnesty was granted clamour grew for granting relief to those who have more than two or three cases registered against them. Even PDP legislator, Yasir Rishi asked the government that the accused against whom one or two FIRS were registered too needed to be considered and brought under the amnesty scheme.
Since 2010, police registered cases against many youths especially those involved in stone pelting or other minor incidents. Even some youths have more than four or five cases registered against them. After gaining the goodwill due to amnesty of the first time offenders, the government wants to further improve its image in the people. Even the centre’s interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma has also recommended that stone pelters who are first time offenders or have more than one case and want to stay away from protests should be granted general amnesty.
It seems that Centre has given its nod to give amnesty to those youth who have one or more cases. After the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander, Burhan Wani, when Valley was plunged into series of protests and more than 95 civilians were killed by the forces, to quell the protests J&K police registered thousands of cases across Valley during the six months, even hundreds of people were detained and later released, however, cases against them remained in various police stations stranded that has effected lives of many youths.
Even some of those youths, who were fed up with police humiliations, went underground and joined militancy especially in south Kashmir. Many families claimed that police humiliation forced their children to pick up guns despite they didn’t cross the Line of Control for any arms training. Though police humiliation could be a reason for picking the gun, however, this is not the only reason why many young men joined ranks of militancy, especially after the killing of Burhan Wani. To restore peace in Kashmir, the J&K government in consultation with Centre is planning series of measures in the coming months, even the government is not only thinking on a new surrender policy to get back the boys who had picked up guns, but also is planning to chalk out details to get militants who will shun violence rehabilitated.
The J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has sought many fresh initiatives from the centre and according to leaders close to the J&K chief minister, the centre would be announcing several measures that will help in bringing peace in the Valley. At the same time, interlocutor Sharma has also recommended many initiatives to restore peace in the Valley.
It was on the recommendations of Sharma that amnesty was granted as Sharma who met many delegations during his three visits to Kashmir was told by various delegations that government should review cases and grant amnesty to first time offenders, as the first time offenders could be potential raw material for militancy if they are pushed to wall. The J&K government after announcing the amnesty feels that it has been able to create a sort of goodwill within the Valley, so the government is now thinking to enhance the canvass of amnesty in coming days. Though to some extent, amnesty has paved way for goodwill, however, J&K government has failed to control the killing of civilians in the Valley.
In past one week, three civilians were killed in south Kashmir’s Shopian district and over two dozen people including young women were injured with bullets. These killings have put government on the back foot, especially the killing of two youth who were killed in Gunowpora Shopian when army opened fire on the protestors.
Though villagers blamed the army for this unprovoked firing and said this could have been avoided had troops on ground shown maturity. In its defense army and police said that mob attacked the army convoy that left one of the officers injured and protestors also tried to snatch the weapons from the jawans who opened fire in self defence. However, many officials blame the army for overreaction. And eventually police registers FIR against the accused unit.
The J&K government has not only ordered magisterial inquiry but the police have also registered case against the army unit involved in the firing on civilians. J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti also spoke to Defense minister, Nirmala Sithraman, however majority of people in Kashmir believe that the inquiry will yield no result and this is not going to be the last civilian killing in the Valley.
In the past also in similar incidents, the J&K government ordered several inquiries, however, those found guilty were never punished as they took refuge in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that give forces special powers. Even after the fresh civilian killings that sparked protests in the Valley, the Army Chief Bipan Rawat clarified that time is not ripe for removal of AFSPA. When PDP was in opposition, the leaders of the party even sought votes for removing this act once the party came in the power and half of its term has already ended, there seems no headway in removing this law.
The back to back civilian killings, in south Kashmir where things are already volatile has again put state government especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the back foot and play spoilsport to its goodwill gestures. Even the party that has started preparation for the panchayat polls in the February has now asked the Centre to defer these elections as party leaders feel that time is not conducive for holding these elections, especially when militants have issued stern warning against holding these elections.
The civilian killings always become trigger for more protests and cycle of violence and protests that is very difficult to break. And the coalition government can in no way wish another turbulent year in Kashmir.