Pulwama’s first-time offenders in the lurch
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In the sleepy town of Khrew in Pulwama, Murawat, 30, is busy in a door-to-door campaign to galvanise support for first-time protesters, who are facing charges for rioting in 2010. He claims that around 62 people of Khrew, who were “first-time offenders”, have been dropped from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s amnesty scheme granted to 4,327 first-time stone-throwers recently.Not eligible“How is a first-time offender of 2010 different from [such an offender of] 2016? The Chief Minister has set a strange eligibility for dropping the cases. The fact remains we suffered more than anybody else. We have become nothing but a burden on our families,” Mr. Murawat told The Hindu.Though 4,957 cases have been withdrawn in the past two years, hundreds in south Kashmir and Srinagar claim that despite being first-time offenders, their cases continue to drag on. Mr. Murawat was arrested in August after a police station was set ablaze in clashes that left four civilians dead. “We were playing cricket when the incident took place. My friends Haroon Rashi, a mechanical engineer; Shahid Kamal, a post graduate and Mashooq Wani too are left without a future after the incident,” he added.Besides charges of rioting, Mr. Murawat was also slapped with Section 307 — attempt to murder. “All protesters are slapped with Section 307 by the police but no evidence is produced later to prove the same. My request to the government is that if they find any other case against me, please keep me behind the bars,” said Mr. Murawat, who is leading a street protest on Tuesday in Srinagar.Mr Murawat is also scheduled to meet the Centre’s Special Representative Dineshwar Sharma to raise the issue of first time offenders. “Mr. Sharma has given us appointment for this week. We have pinned our hopes on him,” he added.Another accused, Nazeer Ahmad, who is now 48, claims he remains busy attending court proceedings in Pulwama though the year. “I borrow money at times to meet court expenses,” said Mr. Ahmad, a resident of Shar Shali Khrew. “Why is the government dragging the case against us? I have four children, including three daughters, to raise,” he said.Around 62 residents of Khrew faces cases for the 2010 unrest and claim they are first-time accused and have no other cases against them. The PDP-BJP government on November 29 announced the dropping of cases against 4,327 youth who are first-time accused, involved in 744 cases of disturbing law and order. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “A process of review of cases against youth from 2008 to 2014 saw the release of 104 cases involving 634 youth.”Though 4957 cases have been withdrawn in the past two years, hundreds in south Kashmir and Srinagar claim that despite being first-time offenders, their cases continue to drag on. The 2010 unrest left over 113 civilians dead in street violence that disrupted the normal life for over five months.