First-Time Offenders To Go Scot-free In J&K

The Centre has advised the Jammu and Kashmir government to withdraw cases against first-time offenders involved in stone-throwing incidents in the 2016 unrest in Kashmir Valley, a top government official said.

It has also offered to bear the cost of treatment of those who were blinded, partially blinded or injured in firing by security forces. Six persons were blinded and 21 lost an eye.

The official said the Centre was hopeful that separatists would join the dialogue process. “Deliberations are on to engage the separatists but the focus is on Kashmiris who have been affected by the ongoing violence. Security operations will go on as usual,” said the official.

The move comes days before the second visit of Special Representative Dineshwar Sharma to the State as his first visit from November 6-10 did not evoke much interest. The Centre’s decisions are also in consonance with the recent initiatives of the J&K police for surrender and rehabilitation of young men who have joined terror groups.

Around 700 young men were slapped with criminal cases for throwing stones and damaging public property in the Kashmir Valley in violent protests that broke after July 8, 2016, when Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces.

“Of the 700 young men who face criminal charges, 40 remain in jail. Of them 20 are in the 19-21 age groups,” said the official.

The official said the decision was taken after Mr. Sharma on his return gave a preliminary report to Home Minister Rajnath Singh regarding the feedback he got from meeting several delegations in Srinagar and Jammu.

“The misguided youth who became first-time offenders in the recent law and order situations because of prevailing circumstances need a chance to rebuild their career and look for job opportunities rather than being labelled as criminals for life. Keeping this human aspect in mind, the Centre has advised the J&K government to consider releasing first-time offenders,” the official said.

The Home Ministry has also decided to increase its share in providing ex gratia relief to J&K Police personnel killed in the line of duty and it will be at par with the central armed police force (CAPF) personnel now.

“J&K police have been at the forefront of anti-terrorist activities along with the Central forces. We have decided that if a policeman is killed in a terrorist attack, the next of kin would get ₹30 lakh as relief. The State government will release ₹18 lakh and the Centre will pay an additional ₹12 lakh,” said the official. Thirty one policemen were killed in various terror-related incidents this year. The ex gratia relief for special police officers (SPO) was also being enhanced from ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh, the official said.

The Home Ministry has also decided to reimburse the expenditure of the State government in providing relief to people living in the border areas who have suffered loss of property and livestock.

“A mechanism exists for compensating those who lost their family members in cross-border firing from Pakistan, but no such mechanism exists for people whose properties are damaged in firing from across the border. This will be the first time since Independence that a scheme is being implemented for the border population,” said the official.

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