Srinagar: Six months after they were detained ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, two former chief ministers of the erstwhile state have been slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) here Thursday night.
With renewed detention of ex-CMs Omar Abdullah of National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the political onslaught of the BJP-led government in New Delhi continues against the regional parties in Kashmir.
Their detention under controversial PSA comes a day after People’s Conference’s top leader and former BJP ally Sajad Lone and PDP’s youth leader Waheed ur Rahman Para were shifted to their respective residences and put under house arrest.
Apart from the two former chief ministers, two other senior leaders—NC’s Ali Muhammad Sagar and PDP’s Sartaj Madni—were slapped with PSA and shifted to a government accommodation-turned subjail at Srinagar’s Gupkar Road.
“They were shifted from MLA hostel in Srinagar to a government guest house at the Gupkar road where they will be detained under the PSA,” a senior government official said.
Sagar, who is also the party general secretary, has been booked for “raising voice against Union of India, abrogation of article 370 and 35A and informing party works of the governments decision to abrogate J&K’s special status.”
According to his PSA dossier, Sagar has also been accused of holding the power to “mobilze people to vote even during the peak of militancy (sic)” and can therefore, “call for boycott elections” in Kashmir.
Madni, who is Mehbooba’s uncle, has been booked for his alleged role in “mobilising anti-social elements” and playing a “pivotal role in organising protests against the alleged double-rape and murder of two women – Asiya and Neelofer – in Shopian district of Kashmir in year 2009”.
Madni’s PSA dossier also accuses him of “providing support to separatists in Kashmir and propagating secession after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Earlier, Omar’s father and serving parliamentarian Farooq Abdullah, who has served as J&K CM three times, was slapped with PSA two times since August. He is currently detained at his Gupkar road residence while Omar and Mehbooba have been detained at two separate subjails in Srinagar.
Over 50 politicians including three former chief ministers of J&K were detained on August 5 as government moved to abrogate Article 370 while enforcing a massive clampdown to quell any opposition against the unilateral decision. Many of them were first held in Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Center (SKICC), but were later shifted to MLA hostel after they complained of cold with the onset of winter season.
The government has released many of these politicians in a phased manner since November from MLA hostel; however, the top leadership continued to remain incarcerated. As many as 12 politicians are still detained at the subjail from where they can either be released or put under house arrest or booked under stringent laws like PSA, as per IPC laws guiding detentions.
Reacting to the detention, Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija issued a statement against the detentions, terming them unlawful.
“For now, our lives resemble an Orwellian dystopia where the establishment brooks no dissent of difference of opinion. A government that shows utter disregard for our Constitution and is willing to sacrifice values of equality, fraternity and social justice at the altar of power,” Iltija Mufti said.
Referred to as a ‘lawless law’ by rights groups, PSA was introduced in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to tackle timber smuggling by Farooq’s father Sheikh Abdullah against timber smugglers as those involved in the crime at that time would easily get away with minimal detention.
But later, the law came in handy for security agencies post 1990s, against separatists.