National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Thursday said he would ensure that the controversial Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir is revoked if his party is voted to power in the next Assembly elections.
The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act was passed in 1978, ostensibly to curb timber smuggling in the state. Typically, those detained under the law are taken to distant jails, far away from their homes or families, who are kept in the dark about their location.
The state police has used the law to detain several separatist leaders and youths accused of involvement in stone-pelting incidents. The law has come under immense criticism. According to international human rights group Amnesty International, after the protests in 2010 preventive detention became a tool for quelling peaceful political dissent.
“If voted to power, Public Safety Act revocation will be ensured,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said at a gathering in Pulwama. Abdullah said the National Conference was committed to bringing the state out of misery, darkness and despondency.
“Why would our youth be arrested under Public Safety Act?” he asked. “Governments are meant to heal the wounds of people and to provide relief to them.”
The National Conference leader said the state has witnessed many “handicapped governments” in the form of coalitions. “We have seen enough of handicapped governments where we remain at the mercy of someone,” Greater Kashmir quoted him as saying. “That is why we want a government on our own so that we will rectify certain things.”
The Peoples Democratic Party, however, said Abdullah’s promise was illogical. “A party that convinced the idea and acts like PSA, POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act], AFSPA to muzzle the dissent voices, rigged elections in 1987, booked elected people in jails and declared them militants are now asking for majority to revoke PSA. Illogical!” the party tweeted.
Abdullah said he was expecting a “panic reaction” from the Mehbooba Mufti-led party. “You had a chance after 2014 when you people were praising PM [Narendra] Modi to the skies,” he added. “Why didn’t you revoke PSA or attempt to have AFSPA removed?”