August 29, 2011 1:38:17 am
In a major move aimed at preventing the Valleys return to its all too familiar state of being on the brink after Eid,J-K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday declared a general amnesty to stone throwers and ordered empowering the recently elected panchayats with a string of powers and functions for rural governance and development.
The Eid olive branch has come soon after separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for an agitation against the arrests after the holy month of Ramazan. The demand for the transfer of powers to the recently elected panchayats too had gained momentum especially as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had started raising the pitch of its criticism against the ruling coalition over the issue. The panchayat elections had taken place on a non-party basis.
Omar who was accompanied by Rural Development Minister Ali Mohamamd Sagar and Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani said his government had decided to withdraw cases against 1,200 young men who were booked by the police since the last years summer of discontent.
It is a one-time amnesty. From today onwards,there will be no further amnesty, Omar emphasised. It is our Eidi (Eid gift) to our children who had gone astray at the behest of some people.
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Without naming the separatists,he took a dig at them in his appeal to the youngsters,who have been booked,and their parents. I will request everybody to understand that those who made use of you (during the summer unrest last year) no longer think of you. Those who incited you last year are planning to start an agitation for the release of their colleagues and have forgotten your plight, the Chief Minister said.
Today the future of all those young men,who were manipulated to throw stones,is bleak and they are making rounds of police stations and courts. Their future is ruined because they will not get the requisite no-objection certificates for joining government jobs and getting passports, he said. We realise that these children have committed mistakes. We too were children. We will call these children and tell them you have committed mistakes and please dont repeat it again.
He also appealed the parents to come forward and help his government. We are ready to forgive our children. We have learnt our lessons and now the youngsters too need to learn their lessons.
Omar said those youngsters,who are facing charges of stone throwing but are evading arrest by the police,can also avail the benefit of this general amnesty.
However,they need to get bail first before the cases against them are withdrawn, he said.
He said contrary to the misconception that thousands of youth are languishing in jails under the Public Safety Act,there are only 35 youth arrested for stone throwing who have been booked under the Act and 70 others who are in judicial custody. We wanted to remove this misconception as well.
While the general amnesty to stone throwers was aimed at taking the steam off separatist plans of an agitation after Eid,the announcement to transfer power to the elected panchayats was to checkmate the Opposition plans to corner the government in the forthcoming Assembly session and calm down the elected Panchs and Sarpanchs who were getting desperate.
Giving details of the transfer of powers to the panchayats,Omar said his government was fulfilling its promise to empower these elected rural governance bodies.
This is the first instalment of various powers that have been transferred to the panchayats, he added.
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