Srinagar: Shabir Ahmed (name changed), 29, wearing a black pheran, is standing just outside a polling centre in Mehjoor Nagar which falls under Amira Kadal constituency. He keenly observes all the voters who come to cast vote. Ahmed who introduces himself as an agent of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) claims to have brought at least 100 voters for the party.
Ahmed is a first time voter. Ahmed, a “wanted stone-pelter” faces charges of stone pelting since 2008 Amarnath Land Shrine agitation when PDP was in power. Since, he is summoned by Jammu and Kashmir Police twice every month. To revoke the case against himself, he started working as an agent for PDP’s Amira Kadal candidate, Altaf Bukhari. “He (Altaf Bukhari) has assured me that he will withdraw case against me,” Ahmed says. “That’s why I am working for him.”
Ahmed said Bukhari has also given a time frame. “He told me within two months of him coming in power, he will first make sure that I am not summoned by police every month. Later, he would withdraw case against me.”
Another stone-pelter turned PDP agent, Mohammad Yousuf, outside the centre says, “there are 80 boys in Mehjoor Nagar who have stone pelting cases against them.”
“We don’t not demand money or jobs from the party, but revocation of cases against them. I know I am being selfish, but who isn’t?”
Former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has promised amnesty to stone-pelters who were booked under NC-Congress rule.
However, legal experts say it’s is not easy to withdraw cases against stone-pelters. “Once a challan is produced in a court no power can withdraw a case other than a magistrate,” advocate Shah Abdul Manan, Secretary Bar Association, Budgam says.
“However it can be done through a cabinet decision. In past, the government withdrew cases against some stone-pelters.”
“It’s nothing new or surprising in Kashmir. Political parties have been using this as a tool to exploit our youth,” Khuram Pervez, convenor, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies says. “Cases are slapped against our youth so that they can be exploited whenever the state wants.”
PDP is promising the revocation of stone-pelters but its party manifesto limits it to just just reviewing of cases.
Legal experts feel that the party is not sincere in withdrawing cases slapped against youth over the years. “They are using it as a poll plank, to lure youth and nothing else,” Anika Bhat, lawyer said.