J&K orders release of 17 militants
14 March 2003
Our Staff Reporter
JAMMU: In tune with its 'healing touch policy', the Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered release of 17 detenus facing mild charges in militancy-related acts. The process, which was halted after a series of terrorist strikes on the security forces in the State and the Raghunath Temple here, has resumed after a gap of four months. Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, had stated in Parliament that the Centre was being ignored in the release of the detenus. Thereafter, it became an issue of contention between the BJP and the Congress. The BJP made it an election issue in the Gujarat Assembly elections, where posters were seen accusing the Congress of being soft on terrorism. To resolve the issue, a joint committee &*151; which included a Central representative &*151; was formed to shortlist the names of prisoners to be released. It was decided that the committee would make recommendations for any release. The Congress also made it clear that it would not object to the release of detenus. The Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and his daughter and vice-president of the PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, had already said that the release of detenus would continue as the Government believed that no innocent person should be kept in jail. A list of 17 prisoners was forwarded for release to the Central Government agencies after a two-day meeting of the Central representative, Rakesh Ojha, with the State team last week. The 'green signal' for their release was given. The criterion for release was also decided at the meeting. It was decided that the prisoners should not have been involved in any serious militancy-related act, had already served more than the required period in jail even if they were to be tried and convicted for the crimes and their freedom does not pose any danger to the State. All the 17 prisoners were released on the instructions of Mr. Sayeed, who also holds the Home portfolio, on the recommendation of the Joint Screening Committee.