India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

Published September 16, 2019
In this April 8, 2019, file photo, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah addresses his supporters during an election campaign rally in Srinagar. — AP
In this April 8, 2019, file photo, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah addresses his supporters during an election campaign rally in Srinagar. — AP

A parliament member who is a senior pro-India politician in occupied Kashmir was arrested on Monday under a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) at his residence in Srinagar, the summer capital and main city of the disputed Himalayan region.

“We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be,” said Muneer Khan, a top police official.

Abdullah is the first pro-India politician who has been arrested under PSA, under which rights activists say more than 20,000 Kashmiris have been detained in the last two decades.

Abdullah’s residence was declared a subsidiary jail and he, as well as other Kashmiri leaders, was put under house arrest on August 5 when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government in New Delhi stripped occupied Kashmir of semi-autonomy and statehood.

On August 6, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah denied to the lower house of Parliament that Abdullah had been detained or arrested.

“If he (Abdullah) does not want to come out of his house, he cannot be brought out at gunpoint,” Shah had said, when other parliamentarians expressed concern over Abdullah’s absence during the debate on Kashmir’s status.

According to The Wire, the decision to apply PSA on the National Conference president came on Sunday night, ahead of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko's habeas corpus petition in the Indian Supreme Court.

The publication reported that the absence of any papers justifying the former chief minister's arrest would have been an embarrassment for the centre during the petition hearing.

According to Scroll, a habeas corpus petition is one filed "under Article 32 of the Indian constitution, through which the supreme court can order the authorities to produce people before it to verify if they have been detained as per the procedures established by the law".

During the hearing of Vaiko's petition on Monday, India's top court issued a notice to the centre on the petition and fixed it for hearing on Sept 30.

Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law”, and rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the criminal justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.

The PSA came into effect in 1978, under the government of Abdullah’s father, who himself was a highly popular Kashmir leader.

The law, in its early days, was supposedly meant to target timber smugglers in occupied Kashmir. After an armed struggle started in the region in 1989, the law was used against fighters and anti-India protesters.

The night before BJP decided to revoke Article 370, former occupied Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were also placed under house arrest.

Hours after the revocation, Omar Abdullah, Mufti, as well as Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference leaders Sajjad Lone and Imran Ansari, were arrested.

Additionally, Junaid Azim Mattu the mayor of Srinagar was also placed under house arrest on September 4.


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