LESS THAN a month after appointing a special representative for sustained dialogue in Kashmir, the Centre on Tuesday directed the Mehbooba Mufti government to withdraw cases against 740 youths who are first-time offenders, or stone-pelters.
“The misguided youth need a chance to build their career and participate in job opportunities rather than being labeled as criminal for their entire life,” the Home Ministry communicated to the Jammu and Kashmir government.
The ministry advised the state government to release those jailed due to the recent law and order situation in the Valley.
Of 740 people against whom cases have been filed, 40 are behind bars, and 20 are said to be below 18 years.
More than 11,000 FIRs have been registered since July 2016, when an unrest started in Kashmir following the encounter-killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani. Of these, approximately 4,400 cases were registered against youths who were first-time offenders, officials said.
The suggestions to withdraw cases and take a humane approach was given by Dineshwar Sharma, the former Intelligence Bureau chief who was recently appointed the Centre’s special representative to carry forward dialogue with all sections of people in Jammu and Kashmir, and who made his first visit to the Valley earlier this month.
The state government is also in the process of setting up juveniles home and remand centres — currently only one at Pulwama is operational. Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently directed the state government to move juveniles arrested on charges of stone-pelting to remand centres instead of lodging them in jails.
Besides releasing first-time offenders, the Centre has also directed the state to provide compensation to families staying near the India-Pakistan border who were injured or had their properties damaged in shelling by Pakistan forces. A Home ministry official said, “There was no provision until now to provide financial assistance for damage (to property) and injuries. We have asked the state government to provide financial assistance under the Security-Related Expenditure for Relief and Rehabilitation.”
The official said that Sharma also highlighted electricity shortage in the Valley as a problem for the people, and an additional 300 MW power will be provided to Kashmir this year.
The Home Ministry informed the state government that the Centre will also raise compensation to families of police personnel killed in encounters. Ex-gratia compensation has now been raised to Rs 30 lakh, of which Rs 18 lakh will be given from the state budget and additional Rs 12 lakh will be reimbursed by the the ministry.
Similarly, special police officers, who play a crucial role in combating militancy in the Valley, will get ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh, which will be reimbursed by the Home Ministry. This compensation was Rs 2 lakh earlier.