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SC asks valley students to shun violence.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Friday that Kashmiri students should stop throwing stones at security forces and “return to colleges and schools”, in its first-ever intervention in bringing peace to the violence-racked Valley. “Education is empowerment, and only education will deliver them from widespread unemployment and anger spilling out on the streets,” said Justice S K Kaul, who was part of the three-judge bench hearing a plea filed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar. Chief Justice JS Khehar asked the association to respond to issues raised by the Centre that defended the use of pellet guns to quell stone-pelting mobs in the Valley, and said that the lawyers’ body cannot take sides. Authorities have been under attack from activists over the use of pellet guns that wreaked havoc during protests in Kashmir last year, blinding and injuring hundreds.The court had already asked the Centre to consider other “effective” means to control riotous mobs as it “concerns life and death”. The apex court sought the association’s response after the Centre explained the circumstances under which security forces use measures like pellet guns. The court even said that it was ready to set the stage for talks between stakeholders and influential public voices in Kashmir and the Centre. But as the “first step forward”, the court insisted that the Association should persuade the stakeholders to file undertakings in court that they will abstain from violence. Once these undertakings are filed – tentatively on May 9 – the court will ask the government to pull back security forces for at least 15 days as peace is negotiated. The Supreme Court asked the “stakeholders” in Kashmir to “take two steps back”, as a resolution could be initiated only if no stones are hurled and no pellets are fired on the streets of the Valley. The association countered that security forces entered schools and universities and beat up students. “If they beat up students, then students will be on the streets. Throwing stones is a reaction. The Centre has stopped talking to the people of Kashmir. People want uninterrupted, unconditional and sincere dialogue,” the association’s lawyer said. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Centre, made it clear that the government would come to the negotiating table only if the recognised parties participate in the dialogue and not separatist elements. The A-G rubbished the association’s claim that the Centre was not coming forward for discussion and dialogue to resolve the crisis. Rohatgi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti recently held a meeting to discuss the volatile situation in the Valley, and ways to ensure peace. The apex court was in agreement with Rohatgi and said all those whom the law does not prevent, can meet and come out with suggestions, as the situation is not very palpable. Rohatgi read out the part of the affidavit in which the association has raised questions about accession of Kashmir and giving a political colour to the matter by mentioning names of some separatist leaders who were under house arrest. “The case of the bar here is different but he (lawyer for bar) talks about Geelani and separatists. What is this going on? Ten times he says release them,” the A-G said. The bench said that both the parties have to take a joint step, but the first step has to come from the lawyers’ body that has approached the court. The apex court was hearing eking a stay on the use of pellet guns as a large number of people had been killed or injured due to their use. The association was insisting that there should be a unilateral declaration of ceasefire, withdrawal of security forces, revocation of AFSPA and stoppage of using pellet guns. During the last hearing on April 10, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it was exploring a crowd control option that is akin to rubber bullets but not as lethal as pellet guns that are being used currently by security forces as a last resort to quell violence in the Valley.

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