Omar Govt Granting Amnesty To Kashmiri Youth A Political Stunt?

12 June 2014
Firstpost
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: The Omar Abdullah-led government in Jammu and Kashmir is all set to 'review' cases of at least 50 youth detained under various charges,including rioting and stone pelting, since 2010. This follows many other populist measures announced by the state government, after the ruling National Conference and its coalition partner Congress were routed in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, paving the way for the BJP to become the single largest political party in J&K, in terms of vote share. The need to review the case of youth involved in minor offences of stone pelting was first expressed by National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah, after a recent meeting with young party activists in Srinagar. Abdullah had strongly pitched for granting 'amnesty for boys and (that) their cases be withdrawn'. Now, the state government has appointed Inspector General of Police AG Mir to review the cases of around 50 youth detained under charges of stone pelting in different districts of Kashmir. Mir did not respond to repeated calls made by Firstpost. Majority of these youth are lodged in different police station in North Kashmir's Baramulla and Sopore town. While South Kashmir's Anantnag town has, according to reports, only one stone pelter lodged in police custody. If push comes to shove the government is also likely to release stone pelters who have minor charges on them. But the question remains: Can this move by the Omar Abdullah government help National Conference garner votes in the assembly elections slated for later this year? Kashmir observers say it is a political 'masterstroke' Omar would be taking to reverse the anger against his government. 'Yes, this- releasing of stone pelters- will have a major impact on the outcome of the elections. I think these people could later be used for mobilizing crowds,' a professor of political science, who wished not be named, said. Minister for Home Affairs in Jammu and Kashmir Sajad Ahamd Kichloo rejects any perception that the move could generate false hope among the people as a mere election stunt. According to him, those who have been involved in minor offences and were lodged in police stations would be released after the committee headed by IG Kashmir submits its report, which is likely to be fast-tracked. 'Their future should be secured and their potential channelized for good works, these are our children... if we don't understand them, who will?' Kichloo said. The Kashmir police, however, have often been accused of arresting family members instead of those accused of crimes such as stone pelting, a mannerism that has largely worked for the police but has generated considerable anger among masses. Abdul Rashid Halwaie, 52, a resident of Ganie Hamam area of Old Town in North Kashmir's Baramulla town, was arrested by the police during a nocturnal raid last month, after they failed to nab his son, whom police have accused of being involved in multiple cases of stone pelting. Rashid through a telephone conversation from Baramulla said he was hopeful of general amnesty being granted to stone pelters, as most of them were arrested on false charges. He also hoped that the government would initiate steps that would stop police from arresting the wrong people. 'If my son was involved in stone pelting, what's the reason for the police to arrest me?' Rashid said asked. Out of the proposed 56 youth, 51 are under police remand and five are under judicial custody. The Minister also said that the government would be reviewing all cases against youth who have been booked for stone pelting at various places and may release them in a phased manner. Recently, during Lok Sabha elections, the Jammu and Kashmir police arrested, on a temporary basis, close to 600 Kashmiri youth but released them after the elections were completed. According to unconfirmed reports, more than 1,200 youth are facing charges in different districts of Kashmir for rioting and stone pelting. Since the 2010 Kashmir unrest, a series of violent protests and riots in the Kashmir which resulted in death of 112 people. If released, what part these stone pelters would play in the coming elections remains to be seen, but by assuring their release, Omar Abdullah has played a master political stroke but one that could also backfire.