Since August 2019, many Kashmiris including several leaders of the former state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) have been detained in charge related to instigating or involving in the dissent protest against the central government.
Among these hundreds of detainees, there were four politicians of the former J&K who were put under the house arrested the day before the Modi government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution. On Friday, February 7, 2020, the central government, by applying a draconian law called, Public Safety Act, 1953 (PSA), has extended the detention of the four Kashmiri leaders who were initially slapped for six months house arrest.
Revoking of the Special Status of Former J&K
In August last year, the central government under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced the annulment of Article 370 which provided a special status for the former state.
Anticipating the possible reactions of the people of Kashmir on the withdrawal of the provision of the Constitution, the Modi government the day before the announcement had put four Kashmiri leaders under house arrest; two former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and two regional party leaders, Ali Mohmmad Sagar and Sartaj Madni as a precaution to prevent them from starting protest.
Reuters reported, as much as 5,000 people including businessmen, civil society members, lawyers, and activists were detained ahead of the announcement to prevent protests against the central government. Modi Government had imposed internet blackouts as the protests erupted in the region and detained several Kashmiris who involved in the protest.
The central government had been claiming that the region witnessed prolonged separatist insurgency activities instigated by the neighboring country, Pakistan. Indian Government received several criticisms from the international community on the removal of autonomy and subsequent military crackdown in Kashmir. Last month, Indian Supreme Court also warned the central government about the cutting off internet and telecommunications in J&K.
Detention under the Draconian PSA
According to two government officials in Kashmir told Reuters, a new detention order was issued against the four leaders under the draconian PSA, 1953. Under this new order, a person can be kept in detention without charges for up to two years. One official stated, “The law does not allow preventive detention beyond six months. So they had to be either released or booked under PSA.”
Earlier, they have been booked under a maximum period of six months which was about to expire soon and now their detention has been extended under the PSA. The second official said, “Several other regional leaders who have also completed six months under preventive detention are likely to be booked under PSA.”
The Home Ministry in a reply before the parliament on Thursday said, “389 people in Kashmir were already booked under PSA since August last year and some have been detained under house arrest, while others have been taken elsewhere.”
Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti had confirmed on Twitter that her mother was still under the house detention. She also twitted, “Slapping the draconian PSA… is expected from an autocratic regime that books nine-year-olds for ‘seditious remarks’. Question is how much longer will we act as bystanders as they desecrate what this nation stands for?” The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has also described the PSA as a “lawless law”.
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