Stone-pelters in J-K: Repeat offenders may get amnesty too

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The ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the Jammu and Kashmir government are working on withdrawing cases and releasing thousands of young Kashmiris currently in jail for repeat and multiple offences of stone-pelting in a move aimed at building bridges with the disaffected young people in the Valley.

According to a top MHA official who spoke on condition of anonymity, this will be done as long as the young people aren’t involved in “heinous crimes”.

The move comes after last November’s announcement of an amnesty to first-time stone-pelters by the J&K government on the advice of the MHA soon after the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as a special representative to hold dialogue with all stakeholders in the troubled state. reported

The central and state governments are working on ways to wean young people away from the path of violence and the influence of extremists even as they have taken a tough stand against militants and terrorists operating in the valley. Last year, 85 militants from the state were killed by security forces.

Meanwhile, there has also been an attempt to get “local boys” — as security forces describe them — to surrender.

The MHA official cited in the first instance defined “heinous crimes” as those that caused “grievous or life threatening injuries to security forces” and involved the “burning of public and government properties”.

A second ministry official, who asked not to be identified, said home minister Rajnath Singh is keen on working with and for young people and that the latest amnesty being considered for repeat offenders is part of his outreach. Singh will travel to Kashmir in March to be the chief guest at the annual science congress organised by the University of Kashmir.

“He will be the first home minister to visit Kashmir University. He intends to interact with students there,” the official added.

The MHA has initiated talks with the state government to review cases involving repeat instances of stone-pelting. A senior J&K police official said authorities did not have centralised data of youth currently in jails on charges of stone pelting but added that the number “is in thousands”.

Following last November’s amnesty against first-time stone pelters, the state government recommended cases against 4,961 stone-pelters be closed.

“Home minister Rajnath Singh and the J&K CM are of the view that repeat offenders, too, should be given a chance to come back to the mainstream and build their future. We want these young people, who are in jail on charges of rioting, to return to their homes and shun the path of violence,”said a third home ministry official who asked not to be identified.

SP Vaid, director general of police, J&K, said the idea is to provide a “second chance” to stone pelters. “Kashmiri youth should be given a chance to have a better future. A review of some cases is going on and if decided by the state government, other cases will be opened up too, provided that the youth involved in the cases are not accused of heinous crimes,” he said.

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