In a clear demonstration of its tough intent, the Union Territory administration on Thursday invoked the Public Safety Act (PSA) to extend the detention of former CMs Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti along with NC general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar and senior PDP functionary Sartaj Madani.
The move came amid strong demands from the opposition for the freeing of the former CMs. Highly placed sources said Srinagar deputy commissioner and district magistrate Shahid Iqbal Chowdhary signed the police dossiers on Omar and Mehbooba as part of the procedure to detain them for another three months under the PSA. In August, the same law had been invoked to put Omar’s father Farooq Abdullah, also a former CM, un der house arrest in his private Gupkar Road residence.
The decision to detain Omar and Mehbooba under the PSA “to prevent breach of peace” was taken at a meeting between the police brass and chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam. It means that all three former CMs of J&K are now detained under PSA.
Both Omar and Mehbooba have been in detention since August 5, when the Centre tabled a bill in Parliament to nullify Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution and revoke J&K’s special status. In the months since, several foreign governments have urged the Centre to release all political prisoners.
Omar and Mehbooba had earlier been detained under Section 107 of the CrPC. Following completion of six months’ detention, continuing to hold them under the same law would have become untenable, though they could have been detained again after going through the motions of “releasing” them.
Instead, authorities decided to invoke the PSA. Earlier in the day, Sagar and Madani, who is Mehbooba’s maternal uncle, were moved from the MLA Hostel here to a guesthouse that has been converted into a sub-jail. Madani’s detention under the PSA was approved by the district magistrate of Kulgam on the basis of a police dossier stating that “he played a vital role in mobilising anti-social elements in the Valley” in the aftermath of the 2009 Asiya and Neelofar rape-murder case in Shopian.
The dossier also accuses him of “provoking people to come onto the streets and actively support separatists, and propagate secession of J&K from the Union of India, especially after Afzal Guru’s hanging”. In Sagar’s case, the dossier submitted by the police to the district magistrate of Srinagar states that “he was very vocal” against the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A and had “instigated” people to protest against it.
“His capacity to disturb public order can be gauged from the fact that he succeeded in mobilising voters in the peak of militancy for poll boycotts,” the dossier reads. Bashir Ahmad Veeri, another NC leader and former MLC in detention for over six months, was on Thursday taken from the MLA Hostel to his official residence in Srinagar’s Jawahar Nagar and put under house arrest.
In the past 24 hours, he is the third political functionary to be moved from preventive detention to house arrest.