The Hurriyat Conference and Opposition parties NC and Congress are on the same page over the scrapping of cases against stone-throwers and stated that the PDP was only trying to recover the “ground lost by the party’’ after the “massive” pro-freedom protests in Kashmir.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coalition government’s decision to grant amnesty to “first time stone-pelters” is seen by the pro-freedom camp a policy “ framed in Nagpur, packaged in Delhi and marketed in Kashmir with a very deep motive”.
But people who faced cases say that it was “better late than never.’’
“I was named in an FIR number 97/ 2010 in the 2010 even as I wasn’t remotely involved in the incident. I am denied passport because of that FIR. I hope I will benefit from amnesty,” said a youth.
Another boy, who is also a “first time stone-pelter” said “It reminds me about SMS ban. When National Conference lost Lok-Sabha elections, then chief minister Omar Abdullah revoked ban on SMS services in Kashmir on the very second day. Mehbooba should have done this two years ago. I lost an opportunity to work abroad after denied the passport ,’’ he said. Independent MLA, Er Abdul Rashid, said that though the “ move will provide a relief, it should be followed by release of political prisoners.’’ “At least it will give a relief to people. But it should be followed by releasing leaders like Qasim Faktoo, Massarat Alam, Aasiya Andrabi and other political prisoners. I hope something good will happen,’’ Rashid told Rising Kashmir.
The main opposition party National Conference (NC) sees it a political stunt to gain the ground “PDP has lost” in coalition with BJP.
Senior NC leader and party’s Additional General Secretary, Mustafa Kamal, said PDP is playing “a mischief to help and give benefits to favourites.” “If this amnesty is a healing touch then it should not be a selective one, but for all. Why only first time stone pelters. What about the second and third time stone pelters? PDP had a big role in promoting unrest in 2010. Now they are trying to woo these people into their fold whom they provoked for stone pelting,” Kamal said.
NC leader said “sensing that the elections are drawing closer” PDP has started playing “election stunts to gain lost base.” “They (PDP) registered FIRs against all of those who didn’t side with them. Now they are granting them amnesty for their political gains,” he said.
Kamal said in 2016, PDP-BJP government lodged “mass FIRs” against youth and “whoever they found on the opposite side” and they were “framed in the FIRs.”
Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) also accused PDP of playing a vote bank politics. “First you have to see what made people to pelt stones. Who are these stone- pelters? On the ground, you see two things. Youth have expectations from any elected government. When the youth sense failures, they protest. It happens in every regime. But in PDP’s rule the anger is much higher because of their policies and broken promises,” said, Congress state President G A Mir.
Mir said that FIRs registered against people in 2016 were lodged on “political considerations.’’ “I can show you the cases where the lists were prepared by higher ups. And later the SHOs were asked to name these people in FIRs for unlawful activities,” he said.
“What will PDP tell those boys who picked up gun? As a party we are happy even if a single person gets benefitted, but Mehbooba has degraded the power of chief minister. Virtually the state is run by so many chief ministers from Prime Minister’s Office to Nagpur,” Mir added.
“The Indian establishment and their ‘puppets’ in the state were ‘annoyed and dejected’ when people vehemently came on roads to protest the forced occupation from 2008 to 2016. Now they have packaged something in Nagpur and market it here,” said Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani. Geelani said FIRs were filed against thousands of youth and later a “few were released against hefty ransom.”
“Thousands were arrested and despite court orders were re-arrested,” he added. According to Geelani, “such things won’t change the reality on the ground.”
Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the amnesty to stone pelters, as police labels them, looks “a good cosmetic effort”.
“I have already stated that withdrawing FIRs against so called ‘first time stone pelters’ looks more of a cosmetic effort. The government had made Kashmir a military garrison and people face continuous harassment. Recently a boy from Anantnag was arrested under a draconian law,” Mirwaiz said.
Another Hurriyat leader, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, said they have seen such CBMs in the past as well “but nothing changed later.”
“The music of our noise may be pleasing to ears, but what matters is whether it can help you to achieve a breakthrough,” he said.
Amid criticism from many quarters, ruling PDP however said that amnesty to stone-throwers was part of “its agenda” and more such initiatives would be seen in the future to “take state out of the morass.”
PDP senior vice president Sartaj Madni said the amnesty given to youth who are involved in stone pelting incidents speaks about the Chief Minister’s “ardent desire to take J&K out of the prolonged morass”.
“The situation that erupted in 2016 marred the discourse of reconciliation. Now we are trying significant measure to restore peace in the state and initiate purposeful engagement for a promising future,” he said.
Senior PDP minister Chowdhary Zulfikar Ali, told Rising Kashmir that granting amnesty to people involved in stone pelting incidents “is a part of our agenda.”
“We are clear about it. The boys involved in such incidents should be given chance to shape their career.”
Asked if there will be a follow-up by releasing political prisoners, Ali said, “Whatever needs to be done will be done given it is part of our agenda. Obviously things will move on. It is a step by step process,” he said.
PDP leader and MLA Tral, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, said “a ray of hope has again emerged among the youths.” In Tral-home town of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani- widespread protests had emerged last year in 2016 unrest.
“If I talk about my area, which has been very tense, it will definitely send a positive signal on the ground. Now youth can decide about their future. I think every party irrespective of political lines should welcome it.”
Firebrand BJP MLA, Ravinder Raina, said, “Kashmiri youth are our own people. If a kid in a family commits a mistake…then what you do with him or her. You just pull his/her ear. Similar is the case with these boys. They committed a mistake once and now they will be allowed to live their life with dignity and dream big about their future. Kashmiri boys are capable of achieving everything if they are not exploited by separatists.”
Director General of Police S P Vaid told Rising Kashmir that the process to withdraw the FIRs has begun.
“We have got the government approval. There is a process going on as most of the first time stone-pelters are not in jails. They are on bail, but the trials are going on in different Courts. Ultimately, courts have to take the final call. We will submit the cancellation orders to the Courts through our public prosecutors,” he said.
Vaid said now the worry is over. “They will get the passports now and can shape their career. We are suspending the cases through a proper channel,” he said.