SRINAGAR: Ahead of the Centre’s point man, Dineshwar Sharma’s second visit, the Jammu and Kashmir government has resumed the process of withdrawing criminal cases filed against first-time offenders who have been booked by J&K Police for stone-pelting and other related incidents.

The announcement, made by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last night, is an attempt by the Centre to reach out to the people of Kashmir Valley ahead of Sharma’s second visit which is expected to take place at the end of this month even as the Hurriyat has announced to stay away from any talks.

“It gives me immense satisfaction to restart the process of withdrawing FIRs against first time offenders of stone pelting. My government had initiated the process in May, 2016 but it was unfortunately stalled due to the unrest later that year,” Mehbooba said in a tweet yesterday.

The Chief Minister said the “confidence building measure reaffirms the Central government’s commitment towards changing the narrative in J&K & creating a reconciliatory atmosphere for sustained dialogue. It is encouraging that the interlocutor has started on a positive note. His recommendations are being taken seriously by both the Central & State government.”

According to sources, the government is also contemplating a comprehensive rehabilitation package for the victims of last year’s violence triggered in the aftermath of the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani. “It (package) will involve providing jobs to those who have been disabled or died during the protests and cash compensation to those who suffered injuries,” a senior PDP leader said, wishing anonymity.

The leader said the package will be announced as soon as it is finalised which may be well before or during the budget session of the state legislature in January next year.

According to officials, the deputy commissioners of the ten districts in the Valley that were affected by violence post Burhan Wani unrest, have been asked to compile a list of those who died, were arrested or suffered injuries during clashes.

According to unofficial figures, close to hundred protesters were killed while more than 8000 suffered injuries during five-month long unrest last year that also saw a gradual spike in local youths joining militancy.

In January, Mehbooba announced compensation to civilians killed or injured during the uprising. Official data reveals that more than 1800 people suffered pellet injuries with close to eight hundred losing sight. However, none of the pellet victims has been compensated by the government so far.

The move comes days after the union home minister Rajnath Singh asked the state government to shift the minors held at various police stations and jails on charges of stone-pelting and arson, to ‘rehabilitation home’.

Reports said the Centre is also on board for withdrawing cases filed against first-time offenders “in line with the (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s speech on August 15 that embracing Kashmiris and not violence may resolve many problems in the state.

“The government is also mulling to provide a comprehensive package for thousands of victims of violence since the insurgency broke out in Kashmir. The problem of human rights abuses on both sides has complexed the dispute resolution mechanism which necessitates a larger rehabilitation cum-reconciliation package,” the PDP leader said.

According to sources, the matter has also been discussed with former Intelligence Bureau chief and the Centre’s new point-man on Kashmir Sharma who is believed to have taken it up with the central leadership.

Sharma, whose first visit didn’t cut much ice, is expected to arrive in Srinagar on his second visit soon. According to reports, he will not stay in Srinagar this time around and may move to the peripheries, especially in parts of south Kashmir, the epicentre of last year’s violence, where he will meet with civil society, traders and students.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR (FILE))