Representational image. | Image Courtesy: The Hindu
Srinagar: The slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) on former chief minister Farooq Abdullah has not only ‘shocked’ his party members but also rattled the entire political spectrum of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The residence of the octogenarian president of the state’s grand old party, National Conference’s (NC) has been declared a sub-jail by the authorities to continue his detention. Abdullah, 83, has been under house arrest since August 5 as what the government termed as ‘preventive detention’ to prevent any upsurge against the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories.
Both Abdullah, currently a member of Parliament (MP) from Srinagar constituency, and his party opposed the move.
NC’s member of Parliament from Anantnag constituency, Hassnain Masoodi, termed the PSA on Abdullah as “unprecedented.”
“That a former Union minister and three-time chief minister of the state, a known parliamentarian of the country, is seen as a risk to security and public order of the state is shocking and unimaginable. Nobody could question his nationalism and at times, for being pro-India, he had to face public wrath here,” Masoodi told NewsClick.
Farooq Abdullah became chief minister for the first time in 1983, a year after his father and former chief minister Shiekh Abdullah died. Following a split in the NC, Farooq Abdullah’s ministry was dismissed on July 2, 1984 and his sister’s husband Ghulam Muhammad Shah was sworn in as the new chief minister.
A youth leader in NC, Imran Nabi Dar, termed the Centre’s decision to slap PSA on Abdullah as ‘totalitarian’. “Without any justification, slapping PSA on him is beyond shocking. If he has committed any crime we need to know,” Imran says.
Under the PSA, which has been termed a ‘draconian law’ by rights bodies and a ‘lawless law’ by Amnesty Intenrational, the authorities can book an individual without any charge or grounds of detention for three months without trial.
Both Masoodi and Imran say Abdullah is ‘open about his political stand and has always acted wisely’.
“These are the people who have held the flag of the country high during the worst turmoil and slapping such a draconian law is beyond my comprehension,” Imran says.
“He has been in the public life for a little less than 60 years. There are only a few leaders of his stature in the country,” Masoodi says.
Hundreds of mainstream politicians and activists of political parties, including NC and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have been arrested since last month after the government imposed an enormous clampdown in the region and revoked Article 370. All communication networks were shut, and normal life disrupted due to the crackdown. More than 40 days have passed but people in the region are observing a shutdown against the move and all shops and business establishment remain closed as to protest the move.
Many also believe that the detention of mainstream political parties and now the slapping of PSA on a pro-India politician has changed the whole dynamics of Kashmir’s polity. “Whatever steps have been taken in the last few weeks has put a question mark on the politics of Kashmir. It is a wind without sails and there is nothing for mainstream political parties to project and market now. It has only widened the gulf,” Masoodi says.
A political activist and former member of the Legislative Assembly says the detention on someone like Farooq Abdullah puts a question mark on the entire pro-India politics in Kashmir. “For people like us, there is no side left. We are being pushed back from all sides,” he says.
Even as NC is expected to take a legal recourse to challenge the PSA detention, the parliamentarian says the root problem is not these detentions and clampdown but the larger issue of the revocation of special status that J&K enjoyed with the Union of India.
“Detentions, PSA is not the problem. The real matter is the larger issue of abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state,” he adds.