The Jammu and Kashmir Police detained separatist leader Yasin Malik late on Friday evening, Greater Kashmir reported. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman was held from his home in Srinagar’s Maisuma at 9.30 pm and is currently lodged in Kothibagh police station.
“No reason was given by the police for Malik’s detention,” said Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front’s spokesperson.
Police and paramilitary forces have been put on high alert amid reports of a wider crackdown on separatists in the state, PTI reported. The Centre has moved an additional hundred companies of paramilitary forces to Srinagar to boost security, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday.
Malik’s detention comes days ahead of the hearing on Article 35A in the Supreme Court likely to take place on Monday. The article, incorporated into the Indian Constitution in 1954, grants special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
Top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders detained in Kashmir
Police also detained around two dozen workers of the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir in the Valley, PTI reported. The cadres were arrested from various areas, including Anantnag, Pahalgham, Dialgam, Tral – all in south Kashmir.
The organisation, which is part of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, condemned the detentions. “The move is a well designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region,” it said in a statement.
The organisation claimed that during the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, police and other agencies launched a mass arrest drive and raided many houses in Kashmir. The arrested leaders include chief of the organisation Abdul Hamid Fayaz.
“The way forces personnel unleashed the spree of mass arrest and detained dozens of Jamaat members prior to the hearing seems something is hatching behind the curtains,” it said. “Any attempt of eroding or tampering Article 35A is unacceptable for people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
‘You can imprison a person not his ideas’
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti questioned the legal grounds of detaining Malik and other leaders in the state. “In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders and workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested,” she tweeted. “Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas.”
Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said he condemned the arrest of Malik and Jamat-e-Islami leadersgip. “Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiri’s are futile and will not change realities on ground,” Farooq said on Twitter. “Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.”
Peoples Congress leader Sajad Lone said the government is on an “arrest spree”. “Just a word of caution. Large scale arrests took place in 1990,” Lone said. “Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a tried tested and failed model. Please desist from it. It won’t work. Things will worsen.”
Earlier this week, the state government withdrew security cover from several Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Malik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Shabir Shah and Saleem Geelani. The move to withdraw security cover followed a week after 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed in a suicide bombing in Pulwama district.
A total of four petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of Article 35A on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954. The petitioners argue that Jammu and Kashmir became an “integral part of India” when it acceded to the Union, so there is no question of special status or treatment.