Dineshwar Sharma visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month
The Centre's outreach to "first time offenders" in Jammu and Kashmir could mean freedom for 4,500 young men. All of them had been arrested for stone-pelting, mostly during the five-month unrest in the valley that started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. All of them have been in police lock-up since their arrest.
The Centre's advisory to the Jammu and Kashmir government to let off the first-time offenders in law and order situations in Kashmir, essentially means amnesty for the boys who had taken to stone pelting for the first time.
The advisory said in the current situation, misguided youth in the Valley need a chance to rebuild their career and participate in job opportunities rather than being labeled criminals all their life. The outreach comes days before interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma's second visit to Kashmir valley.
The amnesty scheme is seen as the implementation of an advice by Mr Sharma, who had visited the Valley earlier this month. When contacted, Mr Sharma refused to comment. "My attempt was to change the narrative in the state to peace and for that I need support of youths and students," he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Over 11,500 cases against stone pelters were registered in the unrest following Burhan Wani's killing last year. Of these, 4,500 cases were against young men who had joined the stone-pelting protests for the first time.
"It was a mistake to indulge in stone pelting. I have been caught. Now I will never repeat this mistake even if others indulge in such kind of activity," said Irfan, a school dropout, who was arrested and is now in police custody.
"There is no benefit of stone pelting. I will never indulge in stone pelting again. It was a mistake that I will never repeat," added Arafat, who was also detained on similar charges.
"These boys should be considered as ones who haven't committed any big crime and picked the wrong path under pressure, fear or greed. Whatever policy the Center formulates, will be implemented," Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh told NDTV.
The amnesty for first time stone-pelters is seen as a major goodwill gesture by the Centre, coming at a time when there has been a sharp decline in the cases of stone pelting in the Kashmir valley. A few months ago (or when?) the security agencies had appealed to young men who had joined the ranks of terrorists to heed to their families' pleas and lay down arms.
The police say in the last one year, they have prevented 60 local men from joining terror groups.
Security forces in the Valley have said they will extend all help to terrorists who want to get back to the mainstream. Special instructions have been given to the Jammu and Kashmir police to try and capture local terrorists alive. A helpline, Madadgar, with the number 1441 has also been formed to facilitate the return of such young men.