13 August 2020

Jammu & Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti still held under PSA, some raise questions

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The J&K administration on Friday extended the detention of former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti by three months for the second time under the Public Safety Act (PSA) even as a section of officials in the administration said they were not sure of the need to continue with her detention. She is the only political leader still detained under PSA, reports The Indian Express.

An order issued by Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra said the Home Department considered it necessary to extend the detention following recommendations by law-enforcing agencies to that effect. Mehbooba Mufti’s detention under PSA was scheduled to expire on August 5.

But some senior officials told The Indian Express they were waiting for a signal from New Delhi to release Mehbooba Mufti.

“No political leader is under PSA… We do not expect any trouble upon her release,” said an official, who did not wish to be named. When asked why was she being kept in custody, the official said: “That’s a question more apt for New Delhi than Srinagar.”

Another official said that Mufti’s continued detention has to do more with politics than security. The official said releasing her ahead of completion of a year since the abrogation and coinciding with Eid, would have sent a positive signal to all political parties and other stakeholders.?

Some officials said the extension was routine, and doesn’t mean she would be necessarily kept under detention for three more months. Both Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of National Conference were released about two weeks and six weeks, respectively, ahead of the expiry of their detention under PSA.

In fact, Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti has termed the third PSA against her mother as an “Eid Gift” from the government saying this would not deter her mother from expressing her outrage against the “onslaught on our dignity and constitutional rights”.

This is the second time the Home Department has extended the detention period. “…the period of detention of Ms Mehbooba Mufti… be extended for a period of three months and she may be lodged at Subsidiary Jail Fairview Gupkar road Srinagar,” the order said.

Mehbooba Mufti, 61, was arrested on August 5 last year, the day the Central government abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the state into two Union Territories. While Mufti was lodged under preventive detention for six months, she was booked under PSA in February this year along with former Chief Minister and political rival Omar Abdullah.

In its first PSA dossier against Mufti, the administration had referred to the green colour of her party flag, the resemblance of her party’s election symbol with that of Muslim United Front (MUF) – a conglomerate of Valley parties that contested elections in 1987 – and her refusal to sign a bond that she would not talk about the scrapping of Article 370 as the reasons for slapping PSA against her.

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While Abdullah was released March 24, Mufti continued to serve detention. On April 7, she was shifted to her official residence that was declared as a subsidiary jail by the government. When her first PSA expired on May 5, it was extended for another three months.

Mufti’s daughter Iltija told The Indian Express that she was hoping her mother would be released on Eid. “Because everybody was gradually being released, I also heard that everybody would be released by Eid. But today, in an Eid gift, they (government) have given us this new PSA order,” Itija said.

“Just like the special status is a political decision and not a judicial one, I think, the release of detainees here is also a political decision. It is obvious they don’t want any kind of normalcy, they want their own version of normalcy, they want their own narrative and they want people here just to keep talking about statehood”.

Iltija said the third PSA against her mother wouldn’t deter her and she would speak up when she is free. “Obviously she is going to talk about what they have done. It is not only an onslaught on dignity but also on our constitutional rights. These rights were guaranteed by the constitution and they were taken away,” she said.


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