Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, who have been in preventive detention since August when the erstwhile state’s special status was scrapped, were charged under the Public Safety Act on Thursday. These leaders are in detention for six month now since the Centre amended Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 to abrogate the special status, and bifurcated it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Abdullah and Mufti, along with a few other Kashmiri politicians including Shah Faesal, were charged under the Act on Thursday as their detention under Section 107 (security for keeping the peace in other cases) of the Indian Penal Code was coming to an end. National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and Peoples Democratic Party leader Sartaj Madani were also detained under the PSA.
The Act, notified in 1978, allows detention without a trial for three to six months. It was introduced under former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah to keep timber smugglers “out of circulation”.
“For 70 years, we held the Indian flag in Jammu and Kashmir and this is how the government is rewarding us,” an unidentified PDP leader told The Indian Express. “The people of Kashmir see us as collaborators and New Delhi sees us as enemies.”
Mufti was handed the order at the bungalow where she in under detention, unidentified officials said, according to PTI. Mufti was initially lodged at Cheshmashahi hut, but was later shifted to government accommodation. Omar Abdullah is at Hari Niwas while his father Farooq Abdullah is being held in his Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar.
Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti took to Twitter to confirm the invocation of PSA. “Ms Mufti received a PSA order sometime back,” she wrote. “Slapping the draconian PSA on two ex-Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers is expected from an autocratic regime that books nine year olds for ‘seditious remarks’. Question is how much longer will we act as bystanders as they desecrate what this nation stands for?”
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has been periodically releasing Kashmiri politicians from preventive detention. People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone and PDP leader Waheed Parra, a close aide of Mufti were released from detention in Srinagar and put under house arrest on Wednesday. Eight leaders have been released from preventive detention since Sunday.
On January 16, five Kashmiri political leaders were released from detention. Before that, five other politicians, including two legislators, were released from detention in the MLA hostel on December 30.
The Narendra Modi-led administration has faced global pressure to restore normalcy in the Valley. On January 24, the shutdown partially eased up as 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.