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Editorial
Amnesty for stone-pelters
Release of first-time offenders is welcome, but more needs to be done under Juvenile Justice system for the detained teenagers
ActIT Jammu, ASP.net Projects, Java, Vb.net, C# Training Jammu
Union home ministry's recommendation to the Centre to withdraw cases against first-time stone-pelters and union home minister Rajnath Singh's suggestion to Jammu and Kashmir government to shift juveniles from jails to remand homes imbue some optimism about Centre's shift from extremely hard-line and belligerent policy in Kashmir to one of engagement. However, there is much more that the Centre could have done to make its new initiative more credible. It is not yet clear whether these developments are a consequence of the suggestions made by Centre's special representative Dineshwar Sharma or were already in the making. Secondly, concerns have erupted over the legitimacy and autonomy of the state government. Opposition leader in the state, Omar Abdullah, has rightly pointed out that this was well within the capacity of the state government to initiate such an amnesty scheme for stone-pelters. On previous occasions these amnesty schemes have been the prerogative of the state government which puts a question mark over the competence of state government and more likely its lack of powers to do so. Needless to point out that strong arm tactics to deal with stone-pelters is adding to the existing levels of anger in the Valley. Instead of taking a lenient view of many cases which are not serious in nature, the government has been pursuing a policy of random arrests and using the draconian Public Safety Act to target youth and teenagers. Over 10,000 young men and teenagers have been arrested post Burhan Wani's killing and there has been no proper mechanism to review these cases. Last year, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced that cases of stone- pelters would be reviewed pointing to possible amnesty for some. However, the lip service was not translated on ground much. Though some stone-pelters were let off but their constant harassment by the police, even after their release, continued. It is not known if the union home ministry's present vision of amnesty would be any different.

Significantly, the juvenile justice issue is a cause for major concern. After severe criticism of the Omar Abdullah government post 2010, the state which previously had no juvenile homes, set up one in Harwan and over 600 minors have been lodged there since 2011. However, the juvenile home falls short of the basic requirements for a reformatory remand house for minors who are lodged there. Besides, there are still many alleged cases of minors being dumped in main jails where they are in constant touch with criminals and exposed to criminal behavior as well as religious radicalization. Clearly, the juvenile justice system has not delivered on the ground despite some feeble efforts. For nearly a decade, the state government has come under severe criticism for non-implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Earlier this year, the government constituted its maiden apex committee to select members of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. However, not much headway has been made in this regard. The fresh initiative, however, imbues feeble hope of things moving forward. But much more needs to be done to win the confidence of the people in Kashmir. The Centre needs to take up small and long term measures and start first of all with measures like ban on pellet guns, allowing peaceful protests to take place and deal with issues of human rights violations, both by state and non-state actors, with greater seriousness. Stone-pelters are a product of the suffocating conditions in the Valley for decades. While they must not be treated as criminals, barring in cases where there is evidence of intent and serious damage caused, steps need to be taken to reduce the suffocating air to enable youth and teenagers to lead peaceful normal lives. The government is required to take drastic actions with a feasible plan, not just resort to piece-meal efforts, and much less just promises and announcements.


News Updated at : Wednesday, November 22, 2017
 
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