NEW DELHI: A former chief minister of India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, seen as being pro-India, has been formally arrested under a special law allowing him to be held for up to two years without charge, authorities said on Tuesday.

Farooq Abdullah, 81, has been under house arrest since early August when India stripped India-held Kashmir of its autonomy, imposed a security lockdown and detained dozens of politicians including those who back the region being part of India.

But on Monday he was formally arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and his home turned into a “judicial lockup”, Muneer Khan, a senior police official in India-held Kashmir, told AFP.

It is the first confirmed case of a Kashmiri politician being arrested under the PSA since India’s Aug 5 move when it sent tens of thousands of troops to Kashmir and imposed a communications blackout.

Earlier, India’s national security adviser claimed that a “majority” of Kashmiris supported its move except for a Pakistan-backed “vocal minority”.

But in the wake of the lockdown, even pro-India politicians started speaking out about New Delhi’s intervention.

A day after the Indian government revoked the special status, Abdullah climbed a wall of his house to address the media and condemned the move. That was the last time he was seen in public. “Why could they not wait? After 70 years, they have stabbed the people of the state. As soon as our gates open, our people will be out.

“We will fight. We will go to the courts. We’re not gun-runners, grenade-throwers, stone-throwers, we believe in a peaceful resolution of things,” Abdullah said.

Ironically, the PSA was introduced in the 1970s under Abdullah’s father, Sheikh Abdullah, mainly to prevent timber smuggling.

However, activists say, since an uprising against Indian rule gained momentum in 1989 it has been used to detain thousands of people.

The UN human rights office last year observed that special laws in Kashmir, including the PSA, “have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardise the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations”.

Amnesty International in June said the PSA “circumvents the criminal justice system in Jammu and Kashmir to undermine accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights”.

Mobile phones and the internet remain cut off in much of the India-held valley, the hotbed of resistance to Indian rule, more than six weeks after New Delhi’s move to annex the internationally-acknowledged disputed region.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019