Omar minced no words when he took to micro-blogging site Twitter and said: “How does stone pelting on school children or tourist buses help advance the agenda of stone pelters? These attacks deserve our unequivocal condemnation and this tweet is mine.”
The National Conference leader also put a question mark on the reprieve given to stone-pelters by the government last year. It needs to be pointed out that the Union Home Ministry headed by Rajnath Singh had okayed an amnesty scheme for “first-time stone-pelters”. This was a policy followed by the PDP of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
For once, Omar and Mehbooba, who are political rivals in the state politics, appear to be on the same page as far as this particular incident of stone-pelting is concerned. They both condemned it and seems to have been brought together with this incident.
Regarding this scheme for stone-pelters, Omar said: The amnesty granted to stone pelters was meant to encourage more reasonable behaviour but some of these goons are determined to use the opportunity given to them to pelt more stones.
Mehbooba Mufti also took to Twitter to convey her point of view across, and she asserted that those behind the attack will be tracked down. She tweeted: Shocked and angered to hear of the attack on school bus in Shopian. The perpetrators of this senseless and cowardly act will be brought to justice.
It brings to the fore the question whether a soft line towards stone-pelters was right. The ruling PDP has often branded the stone-pelters as “misguided youth” who deserve to be treated gently. This policy, the party believes, helps the youth in shunning violence and behave better.
It needs to be mentioned here that the stone-pelters were trying to enforce a bandh call given by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and some other separatist leaders. The separatist leaders had asked for a bandh to be observed against the killing of terrorist Samir Tiger in an encounter a day earlier.
It is odd that most separatist leaders try to adopt a high moral ground but fail to condemn such incidents unequivocally. On April 29, terrorists had killed three civilians in Baramullah. The youth had assembled at Iqbal Market Khanpora and were shot dead from point-blank range.
It needs to be noted here that it is almost routine for separatist leaders to call for bandhs against the killing of terrorists in encounters with security forces. Sometimes, the bandhs have also been called in the past to ""protest against the death of innocent youth (usually stone-pelters at encounter sites)"". However, no bandhs are ever called to protest against the killings like those perpetrated by the terrorists.
This select outrage, carefully calibrated, by the separatist leadership is something that distrurbs peace in the Kashmir Valley. It is harming the common people who are waiting anxiously for tourist season to begin. A couple of days ago, a tourist bus was also attacked by stone-pelters. Some tourists were injured in the attack. The incident raised heckles in the Kashmir Valley and outside with widespread condemnation. On social media, some people defined the incident as “an act of terrorism”.
(The writer is a Jammu-based freelancer)