FOURTEEN MONTHS after she was arrested, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti was released Tuesday after the J&K government revoked her detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The decision came two days before her daughter Iltija Mufti’s petition challenging her detention was scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court.
In an audio message posted on Twitter after being released, she said the people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot forget the “robbery and humiliation” of August 5 and demanded release of all prisoners lodged in different jails of the Union territory and outside.
“Now, all of us have to reiterate, we will have to take back what New Delhi snatched from us illegally, undemocratically and unconstitutionally. In addition to this we will have to continue our struggle for the resolution of Kashmir issue for which thousands of people sacrifices their lives. I agree that this path would not be easy but I have belief that our courage and our determination will help us to cross this road,” she said in the audio message.
As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, Id like to thank everybody who supported me in these tough times. I owe a debt of gratitude to you all. This is Iltija signing off. فی امان اﷲ May allah protect you
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 13, 2020
Immediately after the revocation of detention, the PDP said Mufti would address a press conference on Friday. In her message, Mufti also said, “All this time, the black decision of the black day of August 5, 2019 wounded my soul. And I understand the situation would have been similar for all people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
An order issued on Tuesday by Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra said, “In exercise of the powers conferred under section 19(1) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, the government hereby revokes the detention order… of Ms Mehbooba Mufti… with immediate effect.”
When contacted, Mufti’s daughter Iltija confirmed to The Indian Express her mother has been released. “As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, I’d like to thank everybody who supported me in these tough times. I owe a debt of gratitude to you all…,” she tweeted from her mother’s handle for the one last time.
Mufti, along with the entire separatist and mainstream leadership, was detained by the J&K Police on August 5 last year; the day the Centre abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and downgraded the state into two Union Territories. Initially, Mufti was under preventive detention for six months. As it expired, the government slapped the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) against her on February 5 this year. Her detention under the PSA was extended on July 31. On April 7, after the Covid-19 pandemic, Mufti was shifted to her residence that was declared a subsidiary jail by the government.
While Mufti was not the only mainstream leader booked under the PSA after the abrogation of J&K’s special status, she is the last mainstream political leader to be released by the government.
Sources in the government said Mufti’s release was delayed as she was not ready to show any flexibility on the events of August 5 last year. In fact, unlike other mainstream political leaders, who preferred silence for months after their release, Mufti posted an audio on twitter the very day she was released and decided to address a press conference on Friday.
The government’s change of heart over Mufti’s detention has come barely a fortnight after the Supreme Court questioned the government over her detention beyond a year. “How long has the detention been for and on what grounds? Can the detention be extended beyond one year?” the SC bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for J&K in the petition filed by Iltija.
“We also want to know the proposal of the government, and how long do you propose to extend it (Mehbooba’s detention)”. In the Supreme Court, the government had maintained that Mufti was detained “on the ground of maintaining public law and order”.
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