SRI NAGAR: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have been charged under the stringent Public Safety Act, which allows detention without trial for up to three months and multiple extensions. The order came on the last day of their six-month detention without charges.
Al Jazeera quoted a senior police official in the region as saying that the PSA was slapped on the two formers chief ministers as the detention under the current charges could not be stretched beyond six months. Omar Abdullah will remain in custody at Hari Niwas, a state guest house, and Mehbooba Mufti will continue to be held at a government house in Srinagar.
Two more leaders - Ali Mohammad Sagar of the National Conference (NC) and Sartaj Madhvi of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) - have also been booked under the PSA, said an NDTV report. The charges against Sagar, a general secretary of the NC, include his ability to mobilise people especially for voting in elections at the height of militancy in Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah's father, Farooq Abdullah was charged under the same law last September and has been under house arrest since August as well. The 83-year-old politician was charged with "disturbing public order" under the law, which means shorter detention of three months.
Hundreds of politicians including the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti were detained or arrested in August as part of the centre's massive clampdown after its decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the constitution and split it into two union territories.
The strict measures against the mainstream politicians were taken after they strongly opposed the government's move to abrogate the special law that had provided the region with a separate constitution, a flag and barred outsiders from the permanent settlements, said the Al Jazeera report.
Iltija Mufti, the daughter of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, reacted to the development saying that the government "is hurtling to become a banana republic".
"Farooq Abdullah is a member of parliament and you cannot punish somebody who is an elected representative. It is his fundamental right to say how he feels and has a right to attend the parliament. But there is no respect for the rule of law,” she added. .
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said he was "shocked and devastated" with the move. He described the detention of citizens without charges as "the worst abomination in a democracy".
"When unjust laws are passed or unjust laws are invoked, what option do the people have than to protest peacefully?" the Congress leader added.
Chidambaram is currently out on bail after spending 106 days in Delhi's Tihar Jail in connection with the INX Media case. On his release from jail he pointed out "after 106 days of pre-trial incarceration, there is not a single charge that has been framed against me".
Image Credit: Tehelka