Srinagar: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday said Kashmiri boys who have fled their homes to join militants should be brought back to the mainstream and prevented from losing their lives in shootouts with security forces.
"Those who have taken up arms or those who have not but are missing from their homes and want to join militancy, they are locals," the Chief Minister said in an admission that many Kashmiri boys, who have been reported missing in the last three months, may have joined militants.
"I request the police to try and bring them back. Instead of being killed in encounters, if it is possible, bring them back to their homes. Make them part of the mainstream. Give them bats, balls and good education, instead of guns," Mehbooba Mufti said, addressing the police commemoration day parade here.
The remarks come in the wake of an ongoing violent unrest that has been raging in the Kashmir Valley since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
The unrest has left 91 people dead, over 12,000 injured in the months of stone-pelting protests and counter-violence by security forces. Police have arrested thousands of Kashmiri youth in a crackdown launched against ring leaders of stone-pelters in the valley.
Many youth have been reported missing from their homes amid fears that they may have been radicalised and may have joined militants. The Chief Minister appeared to be confirming the fears.
Mehbooba Mufti said such youth needed handholding and should be welcomed if they wanted to return and live a life of peace.
Batting for the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Chief Minister said peace was needed to have withdraw the controversial law that gives unbridled powers to security forces in their fight against militants.
"We have to create an environment of peace and tranquillity in Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA is not permanent. We have to remove the AFSPA. But we need support for that. We can do it in intervals but the militancy has to stop.
"I know that today the situation is not such, but tomorrow, a year after, in future we have to repeal the AFSPA as we cannot keep it in vogue forever."
She stressed that her government wanted to ban the use of pellet guns against protesters but said that "it is possible only if people support the government".
"Our children are always used as shields. We can't force someone to talk by throwing stones on them."
Mehbooba Mufti also asked Pakistan to stop sending militants in Kashmir and create an atmosphere conducive for peace talks.
"Pakistan has to understand that the two countries share the border and to bring peace in the region, start a dialogue, the infiltration must stop," she said.
The chief minister said she would ensure that those responsible for the deaths of innocent persons in the prolonged agitation were punished.