Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik has been arrested in a crackdown on leaders in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK), Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Saturday.
"Strongly condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat e Islami [JI] leadership and cadres, and the arrest of Yasin Malik," wrote Farooq on Twitter, adding that such "illegal and coercive measures" against Kashmiris were "futile and will not change realities on [the] ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation."
Indian police took Malik into custody after they raided his Maisuma residence in Srinagar and lodged him at Kothibagh police station, the Kashmir Media Service(KMS) reported.
According to Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, Hurriyat leaders and workers of the JI have been arrested over the past 24 hours.
In a post shared on Twitter, Mufti said: "Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K [occupied Jammu and Kashmir]. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas."
According to KMS, the JI in a statement termed the crackdown a "well-designed conspiracy to further add to the already deteriorated situation in occupied Kashmir", raising questions over the timing of the arrest "when petitions challenging Article 35-A were listed in the Indian Supreme Court".
Article 35-A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the state’s "permanent residents" and their special rights and privileges.
The KMS added that dozens of leaders and activists of JI were arrested from their residences. The arrested include — JI Ameer, Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz, Advocate Zahid Ali, Ghulam Qadir Lone, Abdur Rauf, Mudassir Ahmed, Abdul Salam, Bakhtawar Ahmed, Muhammad Hayat, Bilal Ahmed and Ghulam Muhammad Dar.
Malik's arrest comes in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that killed more than 40 paramilitary soldiers in IoK.
Following the attack, Indian authorities withdrew the "security cover" provided to five Kashmiri leaders, including Farooq, who is the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Security cover for Shabir Shah, Hashim Qureshi, Bilal Lone and Abdul Ghani Bhat has also been removed.
Crackdown against Kashmiris
Quoting officials, Times of India said Malik was arrested on Friday night amid indications of a wider crackdown. They said police and paramilitary forces had been put on high alert; however, there was no confirmation of other individuals being detained.
Senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt also said that a mass crackdown on Kashmiri leaders was underway in IoK. She added that additional paramilitary [forces] had been requisitioned on an urgent basis.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, replying to Farooq's tweet, condemned the arrest.
"The midnight knock and arrest is alive and dangerously well in the Indian arsenal of brute repression, intimidation, abuse of Kashmiri leaders and activists," she said.
On Friday, India's Supreme Court ordered bolstered protection for Kashmiris who have faced discrimination and violent backlash from Indian citizens in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.
More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to occupied Kashmir from the rest of India to escape reprisals for the attack, which has also ratcheted up regional tensions after India has alleged that those who planned the attacks had links with the Pakistani state — a charge that Islamabad has vigorously denied.