Union minister Jitendra Singh has said political leaders detained in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre’s decision to revoke the state’s special status will be released in less than 18 months, The Indian Express reported.

At an event in Katra on Sunday, Singh said that he always said “less than 18 months” when asked about the release of political leaders detained in Kashmir. It is an apparent reference to the Emergency in 1975, when leaders of the Opposition were jailed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader confirmed to The Indian Express that leaders would be released in “less than 18 months”.

Prohibitory orders are still in place in certain parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which authorities maintained were a preventive measure since the Centre revoked special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Several mainstream political leaders in the state, such as former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, and Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal were taken into custody or put under house arrest after the clampdown last month. Jammu and Kashmir National Conference President Farooq Abdullah was booked on Sunday night under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows one to be detained for six months without trial.

Jitendra Singh, who is minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, is the first senior functionary in the government to speak about how long the leaders might remain under detention for.

He said the statehood will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir as the situation normalises.

The minister added that Kashmir-centric politicians kept the people of the state in the dark on Articles 370 and 35A to ensure the continuance of their dynastic rule. “The struggle launched by Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee for one flag, one Constitution and one prime minister finally came true with the abrogation of special status,” Singh said.

Singh claimed that after the abrogation of Article 370 a new era of development will begin in the state and people of all sections of society will benefit. He stated that there was no place for anti-national and separatist activities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.

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