Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday that he “prays” for the early release of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti from detention, IANS reported. Singh made the remark during an interview with the news agency.

Singh also said he hopes that the three former chief ministers will contribute to normalising the situation in Kashmir. “I also pray that once they are out, they work and contribute towards improvement of the situation in Kashmir.”

India had on August 5 last year stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, divided it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, and imposed a lockdown, including detaining several prominent political leaders. Though some leaders have been released, the two Abdullahs and Mufti continue to be in detention.

“Kashmir has been peaceful. The situation is improving rapidly,” Singh told IANS. “Along with the improvement, these decisions [release of politicians from detention] will also be finalised. The government has not tortured anyone.” Singh defended the Centre’s decision to abrogate the special status of Kashmir, and added that everyone should welcome it.