Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday doubted if India is still a democracy as former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers continue to be under detention for six months. Wednesday marks the completion of six months since the government abrogated the region’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5. The erstwhile state was also bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Three former chief ministers of the state – National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, whose detention under the Public Safety Act was extended by three months on December 15, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti – are under detention. Abdullah is confined to his Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar. Omar Abdullah is at Hari Niwas, while Mehbooba Mufti was initially lodged at Cheshmashahi hut, but was later shifted to government accommodation.
“Its been six months since two Ex-Chief Ministers have been incarcerated without any charges and millions of people were locked down in J&K,” Vadra pointed out. “Six months ago we were asking how long this will carry on? Now we are asking whether we are still a democracy or not.”
Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti said ideally former elected representatives should not be put behind bars indefinitely in a democracy. “But when you see sedition cases slapped against nine-year-old kids, it’s not a surprise,” she told The Hindu.
She also criticised the judiciary. “Which court are you referring to?” she said when asked if they plan to move the court to seek relief for her mother. “The same court that has adopted a tone deaf attitude when it comes to Kashmir? They have turned their backs to Kashmir and its people. A court that couldn’t muster the courage to order the Government of India to restore internet despite a six-month ban.”
On February 2, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday released four Kashmiri political leaders from detention. On January 16, five more Kashmiri political leaders were released from detention. Before that, five other politicians, including two MLAs, were released from detention in the MLA hostel on December 30.
Apart from the three former chief ministers, 17 leaders of various parties in Kashmir are still in detention at the MLA hostel. The number of people still under house arrest is not clear.
The Narendra Modi-led government has faced global pressure to restore normalcy in the Valley. On January 24, the shutdown partially eased up: the government allowed access to 301 websites related to banking, commerce, education, entertainment, travel and news. No social media sites featured on this list. On the midnight of January 1, SMS services were restored. The Ladakh administration had restored 4G mobile internet connectivity in Kargil on December 27, after a gap of 145 days. Postpaid mobile phone services had been restored across all networks in the Kashmir Valley on October 14.