Cases against stone pelters

Self rule, autonomy, AFSPA revocation and preservation of Article 370 were less important issues in Kashmir during the state assembly elections. The emphasis during the state assembly was more on withdrawal of criminal cases against the stone-pelters.  The Peoples Democratic Party, spokesperson, Nayeem Akhter promised withdrawal of such cases against stone pelters if voted to power.  Even the party’s manifesto talked in of withdrawing cases. Earlier the ex chief minister Omar Abdullah had promised a general amnesty to the stone pelters but nothing was done on the ground. During election campaigning additional general secretary of National Conference, Dr Mustafa Kamal, did not make such a promise. In fact he made it clear that no such case would be withdrawn. Akhter’s promise lured many a youth across the state to the booths. Some even became polling agents of the party. The PDP, it seems will be an important partner in the government that will be formed. In the coming days, the PDP will be put to test. It has to fulfil the promise even if its coalition partner, whichever party it is, opposes the move. The government, legal experts believe, has the authority to withdraw cases against the stone pelters. This has been done in the past as well. In 1984 a criminal case (jail break) was withdrawn against Maqbool Bhat and his associates to facilitate his hanging on February 11, 1984. Had the case not been withdrawn, Maqbool could not have been hanged. Similarly a criminal case of serious nature was withdrawn against Al Umer chief, Mushtaq Ahmad Zarger alias Latram to secure release of passengers of a hijacked Indian plane IC 814 in 1999. Zarger, along with Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar, was flown to Kandahar, Afghanistan by the then Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh.

But can the new government do what it promised before the elections? The legal experts see no problem in it. However, the political experts say the government will have to do a lot of explaining especially in the scenario that is now emerging in the backdrop of a fractured mandate.  Most of the stone pelters have been booked under Section 307 of RPC. This section deals with attempt to murder and is a serious offence.  There are a couple of reported cases where stone pelting has caused death. What will happen in such cases? The government alone can explain. To stay relevant in the Valley PDP has to do something which will earn it the goodwill.  Withdrawing cases against stone pelters can earn it that goodwill which it is seeking. The PDP, therefore, has to press for it and get it in the common minimum programme, whoever its coalition partner is.