Kashmir sceptical about release of first-time stone-pelters

Srinagar: Prior to the Central government's special representative to Jammu and Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma's second visit to the state, the government here announced review of cases filed against youth in the past three years. The decision that has been taken considering Sharma's suggestion has not gone well with certain quarters who demand revocation of the same. The Joint Resistance Leadership has called for a day-long shutdown on November 27 against alleged ill-treatment meted out to Kashmiri political prisoners in various jails across the country.

A view of deserted Amirakadal road in the heart of city, Lal Chowk, Monday. Joint Resistance Leadership had called for a day-long shutdown on November 27 against plight of Kashmiri prisoners in various jails within and outside the state. Restrictions were imposed by government in several areas of old city.  

Scores of youth across the Valley have been booked on charges of stone-pelting and participating in street protests particularly after huge escalation in protests across the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani alongwith his two associates in July last year. Many have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA). Political pundits here emphasized that the treatment meted out to political leaders is not only a violation of the Geneva Conventions on the rights and dignity of prisoners but even against basic human practices and ethics. They argued that conducive atmosphere is a must for any kind of serious, sincere and sustained dialogue.

Terming government's move to give amnesty to first-time stone-pelters as a cosmetic effort, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said while addressing Friday congregation here at the historic Jama Masjid (November 24) that if government really wants to take some confidence building measures (CBMs), then it should release all political prisoners without any delay as talks and harassment cannot go together. "Most of the political leaders in Tihar jail and other jails have fallen seriously ill, but they are not provided adequate treatment," he said. Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said here on November 25 that the "so-called general amnesty is a mere political stunt, drafted in Nagpur headquarters in a bid to label those pursuing freedom movement as stone pelters." 

A protest was staged by Hurriyat (G) here on November 24 against the alleged inhuman treatment of Kashmiri detainees within jails inside the state and outside. Members of the amalgam impressed upon human rights organizations to use their good offices for securing immediate release of these detainees. 

On the contrary, National Panthers Party staged a protest (November 24) and burnt Chief Minister's effigy protesting against the government's decision to review cases against youth facing charges of stone-pelting. Demanding its immediate revocation, party chairman Harsh Dev Singh said that instead of taking stringent action against "anti-national elements and subversives active in Kashmir, the central government has preferred to take forward the suggestion made by its interlocutor to release 4,500 first-time stone-pelters and drop cases against them to win hearts in Kashmir." 

Similarly, Anil Gupta, BJP state spokesperson said in Jammu on November 23 that the decision to free young boys, who have been categorized as first-time stone pelters, is welcome if it helps in carrying forward the peace process. He, however, added that caution should be maintained while implementing such a move. "A thorough screening of past antecedents, police records including chances of remote association with any terrorist outfit, intelligence inputs and family background must be done before taking a decision to grant amnesty to any stone-pelter."

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had on November 23 in the winter capital Jammu announced withdrawal of cases against youth involved in stone-pelting for the first time. "This confidence building measure reaffirms the central government's commitment to creating an atmosphere for sustained dialogue. It is a ray of hope for these young boys and their families. This initiative will provide them an opportunity to rebuild their lives," Mehbooba said in her posts on Twitter. The Chief Minister ordered review of cases against the youth for the period

2015-2017 (till date) by an already constituted committee and furnishing of its recommendations within 10 days. "The committee so tasked with the review shall be the same as was constituted earlier by the Chief Minister to review cases against youth for the 2008-2014 period," read the government order. 

Various groups and organizations had raised the issue of withdrawing cases against youth who were booked by police on the charges of stone-pelting during Sharma's maiden visit to Kashmir Valley after being appointed an interlocutor in October. Over 11,500 cases have been reportedly registered against stone-pelters since July last year and out of these cases over 4,500 cases were registered against youth, who were found indulging in stone pelting for the first time. Sharma, who has served as the former Intelligence Bureau Director, reached Jammu on November 24 on his second visit to the state.

Meanwhile, the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat 

(M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik called for a shutdown on November 27 against alleged ill-treatment meted out to Kashmiri political prisoners languishing in different jails across the country. 

The High Court Bar Association in a statement here (November 24) strongly condemned ill-treatment meted out to Kashmiri political prisoners, particularly Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Peer Saifullah, Zahoor Ahmad Watali and many others, lodged in Tihar Jail, Delhi and their failure to shift them to hospitals for treatment and requested the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International and International Red Cross to take notice of these happenings and ensure that appropriate medical treatment is provided to them.

In another statement Bar Association here on November 25 condemned the alleged thrashing of Kashmiri and other Muslim prisoners lodged in Tihar Jail and asked jail authorities to ensure safety and security of these prisoners at all costs. It was also stated that more than 45 Kashmiri prisoners have been sentenced to life imprisonment and most of them have already served 20 years' incarceration in prison but they are not being released though in Jammu and Kashmir the period of life imprisonment is only 20 years and in terms of the Jail Manual and the Prisoners Act, they are entitled to be released immediately after the completion of 20 years but the provisions of the Jail Manual and the Prisoners Acts are observed in breach and flouted brazenly. The statement further added that those who are illegally and improperly arrested and are booked in a case, are not released when they are granted bail but are illegally detained and thereafter booked in another case to perpetuate their illegal detention and this practice is every time repeated, without anyone taking notice of the same. 

Furthermore, the Joint Resistance Leadership here on November 23 said it will hold a rally in south Kashmir's Anantnag district on December 15 to counter New Delhi's claims of defeating Kashmir resistance. The statement added that similar kind of public programmes would be held in north and central Kashmir especially in Srinagar. This was stated in response to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's statement in New Delhi on November 22 wherein he had said, "There was a situation in the Valley when civil disobedience was at its peak. There were thousands of stone-pelters. Militants were picking their targets as they liked. Hurriyat would give a call whenever they liked and paralyze everything. Today the situation has changed and forces have an upper hand. It has become difficult for stone-pelters to gather a crowd. The Hurriyat has been exposed." 

The Bar Association, in its reaction, here on November 24 maintained that in the presence of more than a million army personnel and other paramilitary forces, who have killed thousands and maimed and blinded thousands and have destroyed property worth thousands of crores of rupees, it is very easy to make such kinds of statements and that too when Kashmir continues to be a disturbed area and the army as well as other paramilitary forces have impunity in operating under the cover of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and they shoot any person or damage any property on mere suspicion. "It is better for Jaitley to understand the ground reality of Kashmir, in its proper perspective," reiterated the statement.

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