It used to be an annual governmental ritual to announce release of a few prisoners ahead of Eid. Release of prisoners on religious or other big occasions is universal, especially in the sub-continent, an act that wins inherently unjust power structures some goodwill. Such symbolic release of prisoners is keenly awaited this Eid too. Such an announcement is awaited because the PDP-led coalition government virtually blackmailed the youth charged with stone pelting and pro-freedom activities into voting on the promise that after assembly elections their cases will be withdrawn. The blackmail wasn’t brazen as it appears. It was subtle. During the election campaigning, the promise of withdrawing cases was made not as a favour but like a right denied for long. In fact, a BJP leader told journalists in Srinagar that police were extorting money from the families of these boys and that the police have turned the post-protest arrests into a flourishing business. He said the BJP would put an end to this business if voted to power.
During the campaigning, no distinction was made between the nature of different cases. All the accused youth were promised deliverance. Immediately after the polls, those who had made the announcements reneged. They now started saying that the cases “will be reviewed”. If the reviewers find nothing serious against an accused, he might be let off. One can only imagine the process of reviewing to be Kafkaesque because it has never been spelled out. And since it is yet to begin – chief minister Mehbooba Mufti asked the police top brass only on Monday to ‘expedite’ the ‘review’ – it appears that it is a finished blueprint that is only being unfolded according to its own Byzantine logic.
A government spokesman quoted Mehbooba as saying that “such youth who took to the wrong path inadvertently have to be given an opportunity to restart their lives as productive citizens so that they can rebuild their careers”. If the CM already declares the path of these youth as “wrong and inadvertent”, then she is asking the police to tread a futile path, which has yielded nothing in the past 68 years. “Such youth” represent a political sentiment and their act is called dissent. When “such youth” were killed during the rule of Mehbooba’s predecessor, she protested on streets and demanded that their killers be punished and also asked for the withdrawal of cases against them, not an audit of their transgressions.