The Centre on Tuesday advised the Jammu and Kashmir government to withdraw cases against more than 700 youths who are first-time offenders or stone-pelters, The Hindu reported.

The move comes days before the Centre’s special interlocutor for Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, is set to visit the state for a fresh round of talks. A government official said that this decision was taken after Sharma submitted a preliminary report to Home Minister Rajnath Singh following his talks with several delegations in Kashmir earlier this month.

An unidentified government official said, “Deliberations are on to engage the separatists but the focus is on Kashmiris who have been affected by the ongoing violence. Security operations will go on as usual.”

Criminal cases were filed against 700 men for damaging public property and throwing stones during the violent protests that broke out in the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. “Of the 700 young men who face criminal charges, 40 remain in jail. Of them, 20 are in the 19-21 age groups,” said the official.

More than 11,000 First Information Reports have been registered since Wani’s encounter, according to The Indian Express. Of these, about 4,400 FIRs were registered against youths who were first-time offenders.

“The misguided youth who became first-time offenders in the recent law and order situations because of prevailing circumstances need a chance to rebuild their career and look for job opportunities rather than being labelled as criminals for life,” the official added. “Keeping this human aspect in mind, the Centre has advised the J&K government to consider releasing first-time offenders.”

The Centre has also decided to increase its share in the relief provided to the families of state police personnel killed on duty. The families will now get Rs 30 lakh. The ex-gratia relief for special police officers will also be increased to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 2 lakh, the official added.