J&K: First-time stone pelters to be set free

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"It gives me huge satisfaction to restart the process of withdrawing FIRs against first-time offenders involved in stone pelting".

The decision was taken considering the suggestion of the Centre's special representative Dineshwar Sharma, an official spokesperson said.

A statement issued by the state government in Jammu on Thursday quoted the chief minister as saying, "I hope the initiative creates positivity and conciliatory atmosphere for the youth to build their lives".

The districts were the epicentres of unrest following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen's poster boy Burhan Wani on July 8 previous year. A few months ago, 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. "This initiative will provide them [with] an opportunity to rebuild their lives".

Sharma was appointed the Centre's interlocutor on October 23 to hold talks with all stakeholders in an effort to find lasting peace.

In 2011, a similar amnesty scheme was announced by the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and he had labelled the gesture as Eid Gift for the youngsters who were motivated /lured by professional stone pelters to accompany them.

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Of these, more than 4,500 cases, the reports said, were registered against youth who were found indulging in stone pelting for the first time.

Sharma had made his presentation at a core group meeting, chaired by Rajnath Singh for a security review of Jammu and Kashmir. "I will be focussing on how to change their mindset because they are the ones who are angry", Sharma had told the newspaper.

Over 11,500 cases against stone pelters were registered since July previous year following Wani's death.

The high point of his visit will be his interactions with youth and students in Pulwama and Anantnag.

The amnesty scheme, the government hopes, will increase the political space for chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is hemmed in by protests that have swept south Kashmir, her party's traditional stronghold, the report claimed. Of these, over 4,500 were first-time stone pelters. Sources said the paramilitary and the army have been taken on board.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the union government is taking all steps to ensure return of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.

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